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  • Romans Chapter 14

     

    Romans Chapter 14

    Introduction

    Paul just finished addressing the Roman church, and us also, saying that the governing and law enforcement agencies are indeed ordained by God and they are God’s ministers of justice and of God’s vengeance of God’s judgment upon evildoers and those who reward good; or at least they should be.

    We have studied at length this entire concept so there is no need to repeat it here.

    Paul also exhorted the believers to pay taxes, to give honor to the authorities, to have no debts except that one of love to be first of all fully demonstrated to the brothers and sisters in the body of Christ and also to love our neighbors, by doing this Paul says, we fulfill the law of God. Paul also addressed the Roman church regarding how we ought to behave as we await the day of the Lord’s day. This show chapter 13 ends.

    In this section Paul is discussing the attitudes that two kinds of Christians have toward each other. In regard to ceremonial matters such as eating foods, observing days and such and the more mature Christian, in Paul’s day, saw these things as unimportant. The weaker Christian, who did not yet have a film standard for his conscience, felt greatly disturbed at the actions of the stronger brother. The conscience is said to be strong if it has a sound standard for judgment and weak if it has an inferior standard.

    Paul speaks to this church and to us today by giving very good instructions regarding how we ought to view other people’s faith in the church. The beliefs regarding the various ways a believer may feel about different things.

    Paul begins the chapter by addressing the fact that we should accept a brother or sister with a weaker faith than ours.

    The entire chapter revolves around specific items of belief but clearly, Paul is not mentioning items of belief or faith that are concerning Apostolic doctrine regarding the basics of the Christians faith.

    In other words, Paul is not saying we should accept a person’s beliefs in false doctrines or wrong beliefs about Christ, God or theological issues.

    Paul here is referring this part of the letter to the church regarding various types of foods and celebrations of days a believer may consider sacred to God and want to observe them and celebrate them for the Lord.

    This subject was very important back then for various reasons, especially two very good reasons. These reasons are still true for us today, perhaps in a slightly different way, nevertheless very much valid for the church today.

    The two main reasons why Paul wrote this chapter and addressed these issues is because in the church there were people who previously belonged to other cultural and religious realities. These people namely being people who came from Judaism into Christianity and also Gentiles who previously practiced idolatry.

    In both cases, those who came out of these cultural and religious backgrounds may still believe in wanting to eat certain foods in certain ways and for certain reasons and or not to want to eat certain foods for other reasons. The same can be said regarding the celebration or observance of certain days, as long, Paul says as they were celebrated and observed in the Lord’s honor. We will specify the difference and what this means in our study.

    Paul tackles a part of this issue also in 1 Corinthians 8, and we will look at that chapter during this study in detail as well.

    In this chapter, I believe we will find many answers to many questions that many Christians even have today and they are very important and pertinent questions.

    Let’s look at those, issues and questions and answers that Paul gives us in this interesting and practical chapter.

    Romans Chapter 14

    Romans 14:1-3 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.

    Here Paul is giving the Roman church a very, very important exhortation, it is very important even for us and especially for us today.

    First of all the verb, Paul uses here when he says receive on who is weak in the faith is an imperative mood verb. In other words, it’s not a suggestion or advice, it’s a commandment!

    The Imperative verb mood corresponds to the English imperative, it expresses a command to the hearer to perform a certain action by the order and authority of the one commanding. For example Jesus’ phrase,“Repent ye, and believe the gospel”(Mark.1:15) is not at all an“invitation,”but an absolute command requiring full obedience on the part of all hearers.

    Same concept here, Paul is commanding the Roman church and by extension us today, to receive, to accept in their and our midst those believers in Christ who are weak in the faith.

    Paul also commands us not only to accept them and therefore not to turn them away because of their weak faith but he commands us not to be argumentative about their faith’s weaknesses. This does not mean at all that believers cannot discuss and respectfully talk about the differences regarding some issues, but what Paul is prohibiting instead is to be argumentative and to mistreat others because of the weakness and different way they perceive and believe certain things.

    Paul is forbidding disputes over doubtful things. This is the keyword here, doubtful things. Things of which there is no definite biblical commandment of either forbidding or allowing their practice.

    Paul, in fact, tackles exactly what some of those doubtful or uncertain things are in the remainder of the chapter. Let me say immediately what is not doubtful and what is not ever up for discussion and tolerance. Sinful behavior mentioned in Scripture is never to be accepted and must not be received and must be addressed. That is not what Paul is talking about!

    Paul is also not talking about receiving and accepting the clear false doctrines, doctrines that absolutely and clearly are opposed to the doctrine of the Apostles and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Also, he is not talking about accepting and receiving a wrong view or opinion regarding the person and the attributes of God.

    All those things are not to be doubtful nor can they or should be accepted, they need to be addressed and rebuked and opposed and explained properly.

    This is not what Paul is talking about and we will see what Paul means ahead.

    Before we get into this next subject, what does it mean when Paul says to receive who is weak in their faith?

    What part of faith is Paul talking about? Is he talking about saving faith? Is he talking about faith in the Lord Jesus and His work of redemption?

    No! That is not the part of the weak faith he is referring to. In the church we must, must, make sure that believers are sure and strong in their saving faith, we must be sure they all know Jesus and know Him in the right way otherwise salvation is actually not possible if a person cannot and does not believe in the real and unadulterated Gospel and the real and true image of the person of Jesus Christ.

    We cannot have a weak faith in these things, because on these things hinges the genuineness of people’s salvation and our understanding of God’s person.

    In fact, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews says this:

    Hebrews 12:13-15 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking diligently lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;

    This passage is rich in content regarding what we are talking about here. Many in the church interpret this passage as a clear example of the fact that if believers do not sanctify themselves they will not indeed be saved, or as it is said there will not see the Lord.

    This interpretation is not entirely accurate. While it is true that those who truly are saved and believe pursue holiness, the context of this passage and the entire book of Hebrews is about salvation through grace and faith in Christ alone. The book of Hebrews needs to be interpreted and taught properly and within the proper context otherwise, we end up misunderstanding it greatly. Indeed this is the case regarding this book as it is often not interpreted properly at all.

    Without getting too deep into it, let me just mention that the context of the entire book is addressed to a church that has a Hebrew background. It does not mean that in this church there could have not been any believers who were Gentile in background and culture, it just means that mainly the congregation to which all this was written was predominantly Hebrew in background.

    This is very important in how we understand and interpret this letter. The letter is written as an encouragement to those whose faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior was real and secure. However, in this congregation, some present persons were not yet saved, who did not yet accept salvation by grace and faith in Christ alone. This letter also explains very well the difference between the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant in and through Christ.

    It explains how the Old Covenant was abolished by God Himself and how the New and Everlasting Covenant through and in Christ has been established.

    All this was written, one, to validate the New Covenant in Christ and two to warn those who did not want to embrace salvation by grace and faith in Christ alone of the great danger they would be in as they wanted to, either remain attached to the Mosaic Law and simply add Jesus to it or even completely abandon any and all consideration of believing in Christ as Messiah, Lord, and savior and go back to fully practice Judaism.

    The warning of rejecting salvation by grace and faith in Christ alone and go back to Judaism to practice the law to somehow earn salvation by the works of the law is stern and dire and appropriate.

    It is in this context that the author makes the declaration we have read before, so let’s look at it again:

    Hebrews 12:13-15 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking diligently lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;

    So what the author is saying is this, yes indeed if a person believes in Christ and is indeed born again will pursue peace and holiness, however, let’s remember that the holiness the book of Hebrews warns people must have is the holiness and righteousness of Christ that is imputed to us when we believe.

    Without the holiness of Christ, we certainly cannot and will not see God. In fact, this passage speaks clearly in its context that a person needs to have righteousness and be clothed with the holiness of Christ to see God. In other words, one must be born again of the Holy Spirit who is indeed the Spirit of holiness.

    Romans 1:1-5 Paul, a bond servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.

    As we clearly see we must be made alive and be born again by the Holy Spirit also called the Spirit of holiness and truth (John 15:26, John 16:13).

    Without the Spirit, in us, we do not even belong to Christ,

    Romans 8:8-11 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

    As we see from these passages the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of holiness, of truth and righteousness. By Him, we have a new birth and we are baptized in the body of Christ,

    1 Corinthians 12:13.

    Without God’s Spirit, a person is not God’s child and therefore indeed could not see God, see also John 3:3.

    So it is the Spirit of Christ who makes us holy and righteous in reality so without Christ’s Spirit we have no holiness of our own, therefore we could not seek holiness just to seek to be holy enough to see God, in addition even as believers we could not or should not seek holiness in order to add holiness to us, we cannot add anything to the imputed virtues and merits of Christ in our behalf. We must be careful not to think that our salvation depends on our sanctification, it does not, nor can we or does God requires us to add holiness to Christ’s holiness to deserve or secure our salvation.

    This is indeed the issue that is lifted in the book of Hebrews. Cannot and should not seek salvation or holiness through the or by the works of the Law.

    Now, going ahead in the passage, we have to have the holiness of Christ to see God and the author is exhorting the church in the book of Hebrews to make sure that there aren’t people in their midst that have an unbelieving heart, why? Because unbelief not only hurts and is mortally dangerous to those who practice it but it is very dangerous to those who are in the church and believe.

    Why? Because the unbelief of others causes a root of bitterness to spring up and cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.

    Now, why did we start saying all this? Let’s get back to it, we said all this because faith regarding Christ and salvation cannot be or remain weak in the church and we always must make sure that no unbelief causes trouble and by it, many can and will become defiled.

    Therefore, weak faith or unbelief regarding Christ and salvation is not at all what Paul is telling us to accept here.

    The weak faith as we said is concerning the things that do not affect salvation, Christ and or doctrines for the church and regarding the person or attributes of God.

    The weak faith is referring to actual real faith, faith in believers, faith that is already established. Paul is not, therefore, referring to weak faith regarding Christ or salvation, rather what a person believes regarding other issues in their Christian lives. Paul goes on explaining exactly what he means.

    Paul says we ought not to have disputes regarding these things, what things? Doubtful things!

    Clearly, certainties about doctrinal theological facts are not doubtful.

    Unfortunately today in the church many still affirm that even certainties regarding salvation, God, Christ, and His person and attributes and other things could still be doubtful and could be interpreted and seen differently. Well I have news for them, they may think that but it’s not true at all. Things regarding those things and even others are not at all doubtful but very clear and they do not have multiple interpretations and therefore we cannot or should not accept weak faith or doubts about those issues. In Scripture, there is only one right interpretation and it is our responsibility and duty to rightly know how to divide the word of God, even Paul exhorts and commands Timothy and even us today to give our lives to this endeavor.

    2 Timothy 2:14-16 Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.

    Even here Paul emphasizes being diligent to be approved by God and learning to rightly divide God’s word, this means rightly interpret God’s word, when we do this we will not fall into shame with God and even men. Yet, even in this passage Paul exhorts Timothy to not strive, argue, have disputes about things that are not profitable and that can ruin those who hear them. He also tells Timothy and us as well, to shun, avoid profane idle babblings because all they do is make ungodliness increase.

    Therefore Paul is commanding the Roman church and us to avoid disputes regarding things that have very little value in promoting godliness and spiritual maturity and those things that are insignificant when it comes to sound doctrinal issues.

    Paul goes on specifying that we should not be too confrontational or argumentative if a person for example believes and feels that they ought to just eat vegetables and not meat.

    Now, we can learn some very interesting facts regarding this statement and cultural situation at that time and we can also draw some parallels to situations that exist today as well.

    Let’s first specify something very important. When we discern, especially as pastors and elders, that a person has specific issues about foods tied to salvation and holiness then those issues must be indeed addressed and they must be taught that salvation or holiness is not achieved through the types of foods we eat. In Paul’s days and even today, the issue of certain people in the church who attempt to inject Old Testament rules in the New Testament church regarding clean or unclean animals or things to eat or not for spiritual and ascetic purposes must be addressed and must be prohibited.

    Paul often ran into the problem of Judaizing the church even then. We know that Paul addressed this issue carefully in several instances.

    1 Timothy 4:1-5 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

    This passage does not contradict, cannot contradict, what Paul is stating in Romans 14.

    It does not. As I said, this passage in 1 Timothy 4 explicitly claims that these food limitations were indeed coming from doctrines of demons and people who had departed from the faith.

    We have today a very specific movement in Christendom that considers itself Evangelical Christianity and the church of Christ which doctrine forces its members to be vegetarian. This movement is called Seventh Day Adventists.

    This is a very clear example of what Paul was talking about on 1 Timothy 4. Their doctrine links their food and nutritional beliefs to salvation and God’s will. They also do the same thing regarding the Sabbath, that is why they are called Seventh Day Adventists. They believe that Christians must observe the Sabbath and if they do not actually will not be saved.

    We see that this religion is out of doctrine concerning the true Gospel and out of doctrine with the Apostolic sound doctrine. This indeed is one of the doctrines of demons and these are people who have moved away from the true faith of Christ and the one promoted by the Apostles.

    Paul instead denies that any food is better than others, that God did not forbid His church to eat any particular food. Paul especially teaches emphatically that no food allowed or prohibited has anything at all to do with a believer’s salvation and sanctification.

    Paul instead teaches that all foods are allowed by God and that all may be eaten when we thank God for them and when we sanctify them by His word and prayer.

    This passage should always be taught in the church because by doing so we rebuke anyone who thinks the sue of some foods or the abstention from others may be used to improve our spiritual maturity. Foods do not make one more or less holy or spiritual. The same must be said about the observance of the Sabbath or other so-called holy days. We will talk about this last subject in more detail later in our study.

    Suffice it to say that where and are a so-called even Christian religions who obligates people to keep a day such as the Sabbath because otherwise, they say, the person who does not do so will be damned by God. We mentioned that before, the Seventh Day Adventists, for example, are one of these religions.

    This is exactly what Paul and the word of God prohibit! This is not the Gospel, this is not sound Apostolic doctrine. In fact, such false doctrine is a damning heresy because it is a religion that teaches salvation by works and not by grace and faith in Christ alone.

    Jesus Christ has fulfilled the law of God for us who believe in Him, therefore all of the law of God is fulfilled in us when we believe in Christ and it is through Him that it is done not by our works, not by foods we eat or do not eat and not by observing certain holy days, even the Sabbath.

    Romans 8:1-5 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    Paul clearly has exhorted Timothy and us today to teach these things and when we do we are approved by God in doing so and we are good ministers of Jesus Christ and we are indeed teaching good doctrine.

    1 Timothy 4:6 If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.

    You see, if the church taught this regularly and in the right way in time misconceptions regarding food in the church would dissipate and the weak faith of many would-be made strong and perhaps they would no longer abstain from certain foods.

    Once again we must qualify the difference and make the distinction between abstaining from foods because they are simply a nutritional preference and those who do it in order to be more spiritual and holy and those who erroneously believe as the Adventists teach, that the foods they eat are connected to a person being more holy or being saved because of their nutritional choices.

    When someone teaches and believes that foods make a person holier and more spiritual these doctrines must be rebuked and confronted, these must be addressed in the church because they are false doctrines and people who teach and believe that anything at all besides Christ can make us holy and spiritual or even aid in salvation, these are false teachers and deceived people. These heresies must be confronted and rebuked.

    Instead what Paul is saying here in Romans 14 is different. The weak faith mentioned here is not referred to people who believe that their holiness, spiritual maturity or salvation is affected or aided in any way by their food choices or even by them celebrating certain days unto the Lord. No! Paul is talking about people who most likely did come out of a Jewish background and who believed that some foods were clean and others were unclean. This particular subject as long as it was not attached to the belief that a person had to abstain from certain foods to obtain holiness or salvation, this would not be possible but they simply believed that perhaps those foods were indeed the foods God preferred them to eat or because they were convinced that they were healthier than others, this reason was not to be judged and criticized.

    Paul calls this indeed having a weaker faith, weaker regards to foods not particularly weak toward God for their salvation, or not weak in that they did not believe that Jesus was entirely sufficient for their salvation and holiness.

    We could make a parallel to someone who today believes that it is healthier to be a vegetarian or vegan and for that reason they prefer not to eat meat. For health reasons, in that case, we ought not to judge another for the food choices that they make. Although thinking and believing such a thing as a Christian besides a personal preference does indicate a person who has a weakness in their faith.

    Why? Simply because, although we should not condemn them in this case, they fail to understand that for the believer, even as Paul previously described, all foods are good and are to be accepted with gratitude.

    Let me say this at this point, if and when a believer insists and is adamant in spreading rumors around the church such as, that God wants everyone to be a vegetarian and not to eat meat then we must lovingly explain to them, that fact is not true, and a person should not go around the church advertising their weak faith by trying to convince or even judge others who want to instead eat meat or all other foods as well.

    Judgment, in this case, is wrong in both ways. In other words, we ought not to judge another for wanting to be a vegetarian for example, but the vegetarian Christian also should not judge the others who do eat meats.

    In other words, this is exactly what Paul is saying, in this chapter, when it comes to these issues we cannot and should not judge each other and start arguments and be polemic about any of this.

    That God indeed allowed mankind to find nutrition and enjoyment in eating all foods besides vegetables is made evident in:

    Genesis 9:3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.

    Before this episode, before the universal flood, mankind was vegetarian, perhaps ate cheese and drank milk. After the flood, however, God gives mankind authorization to eat meats as well.

    There is also another category of people and these can also be believers, those who are vegetarian or vegan not only for the belief that that is a healthier lifestyle but also because they believe that eating animals is cruelty toward a creature of God. They also believe, rightly that to eat meat one must kill an animal and they consider this cruelty and even believe that God disapproves of killing animals simply because He created them.

    Again, this is a weakness of faith, or better yet, it is biblical ignorance and it is not knowing God fully. However, we must understand properly that as long as they believe in Jesus Christ by faith in His work fo redemption, as long as they understand and believe in the Gospel properly this weakness does not affect their faith for salvation so it must not be judged harshly.

    Obviously, God does not consider killing animals for food cruelty to animals otherwise He would have never told us that we could kill and eat animals. This is pretty obvious yet for some it is not as obvious as it is for most.

    God does indeed condemn animal cruelty, in other words simply abusing and harming an animal or harm and abuse, hurt or kill them for sadistic pleasure, is indeed prohibited and condemned by God.

    God cares for all He has created and He does not excuse abuse and cruelty, yet there is a big difference between killing for food and harming and abusing and killing just for the pleasure of doing so.

    The Scriptures show us that God cares for His creation and that He does not approve of harming and abusing it.

    God cares about His creation:

    Psalms 36:6 Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O LORD, You preserve man and beast.

    Jonah 4:10-11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left–and much livestock?”

    When God gave the Law to Moses, in the Ten Commandments God makes provision for rest on the Sabbath not only for man but also for the beasts of burden Exodus 20:8-11.

    However, just because God cares about animals He does not value them the same as mankind.

    God created every living being according to its kind the Scripture says, all the living creatures in the waters according to their kind and the same He did when He created every flying living being also according to their kind Genesis 1:21. All the beasts of the earth and every creature that crawls on the earth also according to their own kind Genesis 1:24-25.

    Then God created man and woman, male and female and in His image and likeness, Genesis 1:26-27.

    Now there are some very important things we must indeed see in the account of creation that will help us firstly in understanding better many things regarding creation and mankind as well as helping us better understand the issue at hand in the study of Romans 14.

    First of all let’s understand that this creation account written so many millennia ago gives us great insights that are confirmed by science as well.

    All living things, even plants, are all created according to their kind, this is huge in the understanding and confirming that the theory, which is a theory by the way, of evolution is a lie and cannot be true. Why? Because evolution teaches that there was crossing over within the different kinds of living beings to evolve into man. This creation account written even way before science was a factor teaches us that every living being is created as such according to its kind. Within each kind, there are many species but they are all according to their kind. There cannot be any cross over of kind. There is no cross over between fish and birds and birds and reptiles and reptiles and mammals and apes and man. No cross over is possible and therefore evolution is impossible. Within species, we can have subspecies but there is no cross over, for example, a cat is always a cat, there are many species and subspecies of cats but a dog and a cat cannot mate and create a dat or a cag! Also, God distinctly places mankind in an entire kind all by itself. Mankind is named mankind and is different and separate from all other kinds. Why? Because it is the only kind God created to which He states is created in Hid image and likeness and the only kind to which God has given dominion and superiority over all the other.

    These are indeed very essential things to consider when we tackle the issue of creation and man’s value compared to the rest of creation. Let’s face it Jesus Christ came to redeem mankind, not any other kind.

    Anyway, this is also important when we see the lopsided ideas some people, even believers have about animals and humans.

    This also brings to light a very important issue that is prevalent these days and that is the humanization of animals. In other words, people have raised animals to have the same value as humans and in some ways, they have raised animals even to hold a greater value than mankind.

    How you may ask? Simple, when society places animals’ lives above human we have reached a point of humanization of animals and the dehumanization of people.

    There are more laws today protecting animals than there are humans, look at abortion for example! People place more value on puppies than unborn humans.

    I do not want to get into this particular subject, abortion, right now, suffices to say that it is a real problem and a scourge and blight on humanity and it is an abomination that a lot of people have elevated animals’ rights and safety and their lives above humankind. Jesus gave His life and suffered God’s judgment for man not for animals.

    God loves mankind above and beyond all animal life, period!

    Christians who place an excessive amount of love on animals and have very little for men are spiritually ill and need to review their way of thinking and repent.

    There is nothing wrong with having and loving animals as pets or even liking animals to the degree that we do not love them more than people and more than our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Jesus told us to love one another as He loved us, not love animals as He loved us.

    One thing I will say getting back to what we were saying before, God does not approve of cruelty and abuse and even the killing of animals for no reason or simply for some kind of sick pleasure.

    I believe that it is sinful to just hunt animals for the pure pleasure of killing them just to have hunting trophies, or for example to hunt animals for lucre. We have endangered many animal species to the brink of extinction for the love of money, for some people to gain riches from it. This is all wrong as far as I understand God and His word, God would not approve we kill animals simply for vain reasons and to make money. All living beings have a real purpose for the proper function of our environment and world as an ecosystem. This I do believe, hunting for simple pleasure and not for food is animal cruelty and abuse of Godàs creation.

    There are some cases perhaps that killing animals besides than for food may become necessary, for example, if an animal kills a person, actually God demands that animal be executed, He says this in His word:

    Genesis 9:5-6 Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.

    This statement is pretty clear, God never condones the shedding of innocent human blood. He does not condone it from both men and beasts. In both cases, man and beast, God demands their blood to be shed by man if they somehow shed human blood.

    This is God’s decree and the establishing of capital punishment for murder. Remember, it’s God’s will that murderers be executed after due and fair trial of course. Capital punishment as we see must be practiced on animals also. This was also reiterated in God’s law as well, and again both for men and animals as well. Deuteronomy 19:11-13; Exodus 21:28-32.

    Very well, we did take this brief tour of creation, animals versus humans, the different types of value that God places on animals and humans, how God views all this because it was necessary, not only just necessary because it is good to just simply understand all this but because as I said before, this goes back to our study because as we were saying there are people and unfortunately believers that erroneously believe that they must be vegetarian and vegan because eating meats, they say, is cruelty to animals and many in addition erroneously believe that God agrees with that belief.
    Therefore, if a person believes that they just want to eat vegetables simply because they prefer to do so, just because they even think that meat is unhealthy to eat, even if a person feels that killing animals is cruelty, although it is not, however, we should not judge them negatively simply for these simple reasons. Even if a person truly believes in Christ only for their salvation and sanctification but still is perhaps somehow hanging on to misconceptions regarding foods as long as they do not cause sound doctrinal violations, we should not judge them negatively nor should we be raising polemics and arguments about all this. Paul and God prohibit us to do this.

    Why should we not judge them? Simple, because God does not! God received them as well as God received us. God is big enough and patient enough and merciful enough to wait for a person’s faith to grow and become stronger.

    Even Paul says this elsewhere:

    Philippians 3:15-16 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

    As we see, Paul calls upon the spiritually mature Christians, those whose faith is not weak, who understand things others do not, he calls in those believers to be patient and to put aside judgment and polemic and to accept those who may not agree about all things they should agree with. Paul is saying to leave God room in their life to teach them and to make them grow in spiritual maturity until they can get to the point of maturity they should. All believers have a spiritual maturity level. We are required, we who are more mature to allow others to grow. There are things about sound doctrine that are not negotiable and must be addressed with gravity and even haste if and when a person has serious discrepancies regarding basic things of the Christian faith, regarding important and essential issues.

    Furthermore, let us remember that even in non-essential things, which we are talking about here in the study of Romans 14, there are pastors and elders who, if and when they preach the word of God well, will sooner or later also face these things and so also those who have doubts or are ignorant about some issues and have a weak faith by hearing the word of God and being under its counsel will progress and grow and mature spiritually. This is indeed what Ephesians 4: 11-16 teaches about ministers whose calling is to bring all believers to the unity of faith and the complete stature of Christ.

    As I have already said, certain things one can patiently teach without forcing anyone and letting believers grow in faith and the truth. In other doctrinal things that are essential as I said before, these things, we see that even Paul never shied away from addressing them, often in a form of rebuke. We must never allow false and erroneous doctrines to fester in the church.

    However, here as well as in Romans 14 Paul is not talking about this, he is not saying that we must allow people to remain in doctrinal and biblical ignorance and error regarding essential and important things about our faith. Still in Ephesians 4, Paul states that the ministers call is to not allow people to remain stuck in false doctrines and to not let them remain and fester in the body of Christ.

    The things he speaks about in Philippians 3 and Romans 14 are not essentially important to the spiritual growth, maturity, and salvation of people.

    God forgave all our sins and does not judge us any longer, not even for our sins, He certainly will not judge us or any of His children about things that are not inherently sinful, heretical and false doctrine.

    Romans 14:4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

    Once again, Paul asks the question, who are we to judge another’s servant? Paul now uses the analogy of servant and master. Paul is implying that as we could not judge the service of another servant we should not judge the weak faith of another brother or sister in the Lord. Paul says every servant stands or falls to his own master and not to us. We are also servants in other words and in reality, only the master can properly judge his servant, not another servant. It’s the master that makes and sets the rules not the servant of another master. In God’s case if we claim we understand God’s will we better know how to judge properly.

    What Paul is saying here to Christians is that, again, when it comes to issues that we ought not judge another, and he does mention them in the chapter, we must not judge others because if God does not call something sinful then it’s not sinful and therefore should not be judged nor should we be argumentative or polemic about it.

    There are two important observations at this point we must make.

    The first one is that this issue works both ways. Not only the spiritually more mature believer must not judge the one with the weak faith, but the one with the weak faith must also not judge the more mature one. Often the ones with the weak faith think that they are the ones that are believing things in the right way and they end up running around trying to defend their points of view and often disputing and arguing them with the more mature believers. It is however incumbent on the more mature believer to be gentle and help the other understand that we could agree to disagree. Even as Paul said before and allow the other to grow in faith, Philippians 3:15-16 or perhaps not, it does not matter in the end. Nevertheless, no believer is allowed to start controversies and arguments about these things.

    The second observation is, as Paul states twice already in four verses, that only God has the right to be the arbiter of these issues and since He has already given the verdict about them we must attain to it. When it comes to things that are not inherently sinful and prohibited by God, we must understand that if they are not prohibited they are also allowed. God not only judges but He has judged already and has decreed that certain things are acceptable to Him and if they are acceptable to God then why should any of us object or judge others over them.

    We all stand before God or fall before Him. God is the one who judges and has already judged rightly and we must judge, we must indeed judge, but we must judge with the judgment that God already has decreed and not our judgment.

    This is exactly what the word of God teaches us in every sense about our judgment. The believers’ judgment should not ever be the person’s judgment but God’s. When we judge as believers we must do it as spiritual men and women not carnal and not with worldly and persona judgment.

    Let’s look at some of the passages that speak of the believers’ judgment and how we must practice it according to God.

    Let’s get this subject correct right from the beginning, the word of God says this:

    1 Corinthians 2:14-16 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

    This passage is extremely important to understand this subject of judgment.

    Let’s look at this closely, first of all we understand that the natural man, this is referred to a person who is not a born again believer, not born of God’s Spirit and therefore devoid of the Spirit of God and therefore for this person it is impossible to receive and understand spiritual things, things that pertain to God’s will are not possible to understand to persons who do not have God’s Spirit in them. Why? Because they are spiritually dead they cannot ever understand things that are spiritually related to God, they cannot know God nor understand Him or His word. Paul says they are foolishness to them.

    This is so true! It has happened and happens almost always that unsaved, not born again people, mock and make fun or at the very least dismiss God and His word. This is because a lot of people think that spiritual things and God an His word are indeed foolish, not true, mythology, superstition or just not worth believing.

    Without God’s Spirit and therefore God’s life in a person not only willingly rejects God and His word but is also incapable of getting the real meaning of God’s word and His will. Unwilling and incapable!

    The flesh, sin and the lack of God’s Spirit makes it impossible for a person to understand God, His word and His will.

    The only way a person can know God and understand God’s word and His will is by being spiritually alive and having God’s Spirit dwelling in them. The only way a person can properly interpret and understand God’s word is true if the Holy Spirit is present in a person’s life.

    Even Jesus said:

    John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

    Even in this passage we can understand that it is the Spirit of God who gives spiritual life the flesh cannot profit anything in spiritual terms. Then Jesus says that His words, God’s words are indeed Spirit and they are life. This helps us a lot to understand that the two concepts are intrinsically related. The Spirit gives spiritual life and the Spirit also is the One that is indeed God’s word. How? Easy, He is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of truth and Jesus Himself is God’s word made flesh and He is the truth as well, John 1:1-14; John 14:6.

    As we see to believe God a person, therefore, must be born of the Spirit not just born physically and the Spirit of God must be present to give understanding to God’s word because without God’s life through the Spirit it is impossible to receive and understand God’s word and His will.

    Even in the previous verse of 1 Corinthians 2 that we mentioned Paul says:

    1 Corinthians 2:13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

    The Holy Spirit teaches us God’s word and His will by comparing spiritual things with spiritual. This is also a very good way of understanding that God’s word interprets God’s word, that is how the Holy Spirit does it.

    Therefore without the Holy Spirit, there can be no spiritual understanding, none. Therefore having established this Paul says that the spiritual man, the born again man can indeed judge all things.

    How does a spiritual man judge all things though? Spiritually not with his or her opinion but only through the spiritual understanding of God’s judgments. Where do we find God’s judgments? In His word of course. In God’s word we know God, we find God’s judgments and we find God’s will and only through the Holy Spirit, we can understand any of these things.

    Then Paul continues saying that the spiritual man not only discerns all things and judges all things spiritually but only through God’s judgments found in His word but he, the spiritual man is judged by no man, by no one. Why?

    Because God has forgiven us our sins first of all, and Romans 8:29-34 is clear on this fact. It is God who justifies so who can condemn us? No one! However, there is another reason as well.

    The other reason is that the natural man does not and cannot receive and understand the things of the Spirit and therefore not understanding God’s will and God’s word they cannot make righteous judgments because they are not judging with God’s knowledge and understanding God’s will and word.

    How can someone that knows nothing at all about God and His word make a righteous and spiritual judgment? Once again, even we as believers can make unrighteous and wrong judgments if we do not judge with God’s judgments.

    None of our carnal, human opinions or judgments are valid and are unrighteous and we cannot judge in that way, we cannot judge anyone in that way.

    Actually, all the judgment passages we find in Scripture passages that many, especially unbelievers, like to always throwback in our face when we make spiritual judgments on them or on other things God says in His word, these passages do not prohibit at all judging in the way God says we should. There is a right way and a wrong way to judge.

    Let’s look at what Jesus says about judging and let’s examine them together:

    Matthew 7:1-2 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

    A lot needs to be said about this passage. Let me say, this passage is the most famously used passage by nonbelievers against believers when they judge them or judge their actions and sinfulness.

    As we have seen before in the 1 Corinthians 2 passage that God’s word indeed permits believers to judge. As we have seen Paul did indeed say that the spiritual man does judge all things because he judges spiritually not humanly, he or she judges in accordance with the judgments of God’s word, in other words, the judgments already decreed by God and we judge or better are supposed to judge with Christ’s mind. This means thinking like Christ thinks as God thinks, this is why the Christians must obey the Romans 12:2 exhortation. We cannot judge properly unless we have a renewed mind, renewed to think God’s thoughts, to know His will, to know how to properly understand and interpret God’s word.

    Judging with a human way of thinking, approaching God’s word with a carnal and human understanding will indeed skew our judgment and that will bring a person to have erroneous and unrighteous judgments. In other words, not judging the same way as God does.

    This is indeed what Jesus means in Matthew 7:1-2. The judge nor prohibition is not a blanket prohibition, prohibiting all and every judgment. He is prohibiting human and carnal judgment.

    In fact, He specifies what He means when He says For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

    If we judge with human judgment only we will be judged back with the same and according to the measure with which we judge, it will be measured back to us.

    With what judgment and with what measure should we make judgments? With God’s judgments and with God’s word. The judgment we must use is God’s and the measure of that judgment is God’s word.

    We do not judge humanly but we judge with decreed divine judgments and the measure of His word.

    This command, therefore, refers to rash, censorious, and unjust judgment. See also Romans 2:1. Luke 6:37 explains it in the sense of “condemning.”

    Christ is not condemning judging as a magistrate, for that, when according to justice, is lawful and necessary. Nor does he condemn judgments as elders and ministers in the church on church and doctrinal matters or us “forming an opinion” of the conduct of others, for it is impossible “not” to form an opinion of conduct that we know to be evil.

    But what he refers to is a habit of forming a judgment hastily, harshly, and without an allowance for every or any extenuating circumstances, or have a habit of “expressing” opinions harshly and unnecessarily formed. It rather refers to private judgment than “judicial,” or even Biblical judgment and this was perhaps primarily the customs of the scribes and Pharisees.

    In fact, later on, Jesus says this regarding judgment:

    John 7:24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

    Here Jesus specifies even better how we are to judge, we must wait to judge someone and go beyond the appearance and instead, and here Jesus, gives allowance to judge, but when we do we must do it with righteous judgment.

    Righteous judgment, first of all, begins with the person who judges. In other words, how do we judge ourselves? Do we judge ourselves according to God’s word, according to His righteousness and not the weak amount of it we can muster, which isn’t even the sufficient righteousness we need?

    In fact, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said something very sobering when He said:

    Matthew 5:20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

    This is a key thought in the entire underlining context in which Jesus tells not to judge or rather how to judge.

    The Pharisees were Jesus’ measure as to how not to be and he used them to show the hypocrisy and religious and self-righteous behavior. Jesus, God does not want people to be like the Pharisees in their judgment, in other words, hypocritical and self-righteous judgment.

    We ought not to judge people by comparing them to us or our behavior. That was what the Pharisees did. First of all, they did not even have righteousness except the one that they thought they had but did not. They did not have the righteousness of God because they sought their own.

    Therefore Jesus says that the righteousness we need to have to be saved must exceed or rather not be the same as the one the Pharisees thought they had.

    If and when we judge ourselves using God’s word and Christ’s righteousness we end up being lacking in the righteousness we need to be considered righteous and holy. This is where Jesus wants to bring people to understand. By using God’s word and the person if Christ as our judgment measure we always come out lacking and we would be judged if indeed God’s mercy would not be that very thing that triumphs over judgment on our behalf.

    James 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

    We could say so much regarding all this, let’s just say that it is sufficient to understand that when it comes to judging behavior we can judge it as the behavior it is, if it is sinful then that’s what it is, yet we cannot judge other believers too harshly about their sinfulness as they as we
    have received God’s mercy and we all are righteous only by and through Christ, see 2 Corinthians 5:21.

    We can judge the sin and yet not the sinning brother as God’s word says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

    Obviously, this does not mean that we must tolerate or turn our eyes away from sin in the church. This does not mean that we can or should sweep the sin under the proverbial carpet and ignore it. No!

    God’s word is everyone’s judgment measure, His judgments are everyone’s judgments, only Christ’s righteousness and holiness imputed to believers is the only righteousness and holiness that counts for all and everyone not our own.

    Now having said this, when a non-believer tells us judge me not lest you be judged they are absolutely wrong in saying that. Even though we cannot be anyone’s eternal judges and we cannot be judges of anyone’s eternal destiny we can, we should, however, use God’s word as a measure of judgment and we can and should warn people that their sin and unbelief before God will indeed be judged by God not by us, if left alone without repentance and belief in Christ.

    By the way, Jesus and God do not want us to judge each other harshly in the body of Christ He does not prohibit however using God’s word to proclaim how the word of God judges, especially when it comes to unbelievers.

    Righteous judgment in the church can be and should be practiced but it should be done in such a way that is ordered in God’s word itself. In addition, there are guidelines in God’s word as to how we ought to handle others in the church when they sin.

    One of the things we should not do is judge by gossiping or talking to others about them behind their backs. There is no prohibition to make a pastor or elder aware of certain situations or someone’s behavior especially if it is sinful, yet let’s remember that that is one thing that is allowed but spreading other people’s sins around the body of Christ is not allowed.

    Because that is indeed what Jesus was saying, with the type of judgment we use it will be also used toward us, meaning that if we do that to other believers we should not be surprised if others do it to us. Would we like it if people went around airing out our sinful laundry before others? No, we would not, therefore we ought not to do it to others.

    This is not the same as talking about something and or discussing it between a husband and wife, it’s not the same as confronting a brother and sister if they sinned against us or if we see them openly sinning and lovingly and gently rebuking them, it’s not the same, as we said, as telling a pastor or elder of a certain situation. I believe these are all legitimate biblical supported things we are allowed to do.

    In any and all of these situations, we are not using unrighteous or hypocritical judgment but in any other event, we would be.

    This is what it means when the Scripture says this :

    1 Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”

    Lovingly covering over sin does not at all mean covering up sinfulness, ours or others’.

    What it means is that we expose sin in a loving way and with love as a motive, love for all parties involved. It is not loving at all to cover up sinfulness, no one’s sinfulness. However, as we said, there is a way and a method we must do it.

    Covering a multitude of sins means just that, not allowing anyone’s sins to be exploited or to be spread around in the church through judgmental gossip.

    Scripture has a time and a place for public rebuke, which should only be done by elders by the way, however, as I said there is a time and a place for this and it should not be done lightly or for everything.

    There are some very serious times when unrepentant and rebellious sinfulness is practiced where ecclesiastical public rebuke and discipline is necessary and called for by Scripture itself.

    Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5; 1 Timothy 5:19-20; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:13; Titus 2:15.

    Jesus said:

    Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.

    Loving someone, therefore, as Jesus says, is sometimes demonstrated through rebuke and discipline.

    To do so as we have seen, the church’s sins have to be exposed yet we must do it all according to the instruction of God’s word and not how we think is proper.

    This is all part of righteous judgment and covering a multitude of sins.

    Anyway, we had to look at all this to understand better the concept of judging, when we judge and how we do it.

    Therefore in the context of our passage, Romans 14:4 we cannot judge a brother or a sister regarding what Paul is saying because, especially in these cases, God has not determined sinfulness in the practices listed; therefore we cannot bring a judgment against them or even against their behavior because no sins are committed.

    Because we, as believers we all belong to God because Jesus died for all of us believers because Jesus received God’s judgment on our behalf, we are all part of the body of Christ and therefore we stand by grace alone, all of us! This is what it means that God can make us stand. If God can make us stand by His grace even after we fall into sin, He certainly has no problem making a person stand when they do not. Other believers may do things we do not approve of or like and even believe that certain things should not be done, yet if they are not judged as sinful by God, they are allowed to do them and practice them.

    We all stand or fall before God, all temptations are all common to all of us 1 Corinthians 10:13, all sins of all believers are forgiven, not to be overlooked and dealt with, yet if we cannot be overly judgmental about believers’ behavior but we cannot judge them at all on things that are not sinful. This is what Paul is saying here.

    Romans 14:5-6 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.

    This next passage is very important, together with what we already have seen gives us a very good set of instructions that we must at all costs heed even today. Today this subject is very touchy in the church and it is also a source of judgment and criticism that ought not to exist in the church.

    This type of criticism and judgment among believers often even becomes very harsh.

    It ought not be this way at all, why? Because according to God’s word these things are not sinful so there can be no judgment passed on them and we cannot declare sinful what God does not. Declaring something sinful that is not can in many cases become a sin in itself!

    Why and how? Because are we in the place of God that we can decree something sinful that God says is not? This could be as bad as falsely prophesying, why? Because falsely prophesying is saying God said something when He did not and this is a very serious sin. Declaring and judging others of sin when God does not is the same as falsely prophesying or teaching. If God did not say it we cannot say that God did, we cannot declare sin what God does not!

    We cannot place ourselves in God’s place or make our opinions and thoughts into divine decrees and instructions.

    Therefore we should not, ever judge another Christian if they want to celebrate and observe a certain day as long as, as Paul says, it is celebrated onto the Lord; obviously we are not talking about observance of holidays of religions that do not worship the true and living and only God, Jesus Christ the Lord.

    The greatest example we can find about this today is the celebration of Christmas day. There is a whirlwind of controversy in the church of whether or not a Christian should celebrate this holiday.

    Many reasons why this holiday should not be observed may seem valid but the question is, according to the passage we are studying is it sinful or not for Christians to celebrate the day of Christmas?

    The real answer is no, it’s not sinful. The principle Paul brings forth here is more than clear. We can ignore it but it’s clear and simple, no matter how much a person tries to attach sinfulness to this practice the reality is that biblically it is not sinful. In other words, God does not view the celebration of Christmas day as a sin. Period!

    Many can and will try to argue this point by lifting and citing very valid reasons, yet by God’s word it is not sinful for those who practice it. Let me add a caveat here, although it is not inherently sinful practicing or observing Christmas as the celebration of the Lord’s birth we must be aware of what Scripture also tells us regarding this practice.

    I believe that in many cases if the day one celebrates as the Lord’s birth becomes just another meaningless holiday then that is what it becomes. It may still not be sinful yet we need to be aware and careful as to why and to whom we observe the day.

    In all things regarding these subjects we are studying in this chapter let’s remember one very important other passage we find in Scripture, the following:

    1 Corinthians 10:23-24 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

    By the way, part of the context in 1 Corinthians 10 is something that has to do exactly with the subject at hand, and we will examine it later in the study.

    We need to use this principle always in everything we do and decide to do! We need to ask ourselves then, celebrating days to the Lord since it is lawful but is it helpful and edifying?

    Well, it can be if we do it the right way. If we drown Christ under a secular and worldly celebration of Christmas then the day becomes not helpful and not edifying for anyone.
    If we use the day to preach the Gospel, to read and teach the first coming of the Lord and use this opportunity to bring glory to Him and to edify the church and also to witness the Gospel story and meaning to unsaved people, friends and relatives then the day becomes helpful and edifying and it will glorify God. So it’s up to us as to how we celebrate the days onto the Lord. What’s the motivation for our celebration? Is it worldly and secular and just another opportunity to party or is it truly motivated by love for God and people, sharing the Gospel and edifying the church then how is it wrong to celebrate Christmas? It’s not!

    Now I know, many things are done and practiced at Christmas that perhaps should not be practiced at all. We should not adopt pagan practices and apply them to our Christianity. I am talking about things such as Christmas trees, decorations, creches, etc. Creches especially can be viewed as idolatry as God’s commandments prohibits the making of images to represent God. We do not know what Jesus looked like exactly so we can never reproduce the exact and proper image of what He looked like as a man and therefore it would not be a good thing making images that represent Him that are not accurate!

    In addition, we must make something very clear here, this topic that Paul is bringing up here regarding celebrating days must not be seen as a justification to get back in the old deal of whether or not the worship day must be the Sabbath or Sunday. It has nothing to do with that at all! In fact, what Paul is saying here is disqualifying the celebration of the Sabbath versus the celebration of the Lord’s day being Sunday. This concept should be rather clear, Tha Sabbath day, by the way, would have nothing to do with celebrating the Lord’s day. They are two different things nevertheless Paul clearly explains that the Judaic religion, the Law of Moses, was a shadow of things to come, in other words, Jesus Christ who is the fulfillment of the Law. Therefore, the entire Mosaic Law was fulfilled in Christ. Therefore in short, when we, any time we celebrate Christ we are indeed keeping the Sabbath because He, Jesus is our rest and our Sabbath Day.

    Scripture is clear on these issues, watch, we can follow the thread.

    Colossians 2:13-17 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. 16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

    As we see even here Paul is bringing forth almost the same principle he brings out in Romans 14. 

    Let’s be clear about this passage, Paul is addressing the Gentile church in Colosse. The reason he writes this Epistle is because as it happened also to the church in Galatia there were Jews who were trying to convince the Gentile churches that they could not be Christians if they did not become Jews first and attain to all the regulations of the Mosaic law, including the food regulations, the Jewish feasts, and the Sabbath. Yet, as you can see, Paul says that Christ died and has taken out of the way all the sins and all the requirements of the Mosaic law not because Christ abolished the law but fulfilled it and now it is obsolete because He has established the New Covenant in and through Him.

    Matthew 5:17-18 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

    Romans 8:3-4 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    Therefore it is being in Christ and being made alive by His Spirit that we have the righteous requirements of the entire law of God fulfilled in us.

    Because of these facts even the author of the book of Hebrews wrote:

    Hebrews 4:1-11 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. 3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest,” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, 7 again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.

    So as we see, clearly the Sabbath day, which first of all was really given to be observed, only to Israel, however, since the law is fulfilled by Christ and in Him, the law’s righteous decrees are fulfilled in us by Jesus and only by and through Him and are imputed to us as if we were the ones that fulfilled them all.

    The Sabbath also is fulfilled in Christ and through Him imputed to us as well. Now, many will say, and rightly so, that even though the Law was fulfilled by Christ on our behalf, that we are still bound by love for God and other believers to still obey God’s commandments.

    This is true but we cannot take things that first of all were given to observe only to Israel and apply them to the Gentile Christians.

    That the Sabbath is one of those things is clear by what Paul writes to the church of Colosse. He tells them not to let anyone, namely Jews, judge them if they did not eat like the Jews did according to the law, if they did not observe certain Jewish festivals or feasts and if they did not observe Sabbaths of which the Sabbath is also a part. Therefore, if Paul says this, it is obvious that the observance of the Sabbath day was not required in the Gentile church and quite frankly in all the church.
    That is, if a Jew who converted to Christ wanted to observe the Sabbath day for God this is not a problem unless the person thinks that by observing the Sabbath he or she is more holy and better than those who do not. This is exactly the point that Paul is making here in Romans 14. Besides, however, if a Gentile believer judges a Jewish believer because they still observe the Sabbath this is also prohibited by Romans 14.

    I have said it and I repeat it, it is, however, necessary to be sure that nobody thinks that observing a day or a feast makes that person more holy and just than a person who does not celebrate them and vice versa.

    However, a believer with Jewish origins is no longer obliged in Christ to observe the Sabbath but if he does it is not a sin, as it is not a holier and more just thing. If they do not celebrate it, however, they do not sin, and furthermore, they must not become so legalistic that they want to oblige the Gentile believers to observe the Sabbath or any other Jewish holiday. The important thing to understand here is that the Sabbath like the Jewish holidays are all fulfilled in Christ so we just celebrate Christ in all ways, Biblical that is.

    I do not think it is a bad idea, however, that Gentile believers study the meaning of every Jewish holiday because after all they speak of Jesus and are fulfilled in Him. It would not even be wrong if the church celebrated them not with expectations of adding anything to the work of Jesus Christ but as a remembrance and an opportunity for study and reflection.

    It would not be wrong to do so and it is not wrong not to do it. This is indeed what Paul is urging, in effect commanding. Nobody judges others if they do or if they don’t.

    In the Hebrews 4 passage, the letter and context are written to a predominantly Jewish background church. The language in the letter leads us to understand this as well as the title of the Epistle.

    Therefore what the author is saying there as well as throughout the entire letter is that the New Covenant is the valid covenant and not the Old Mosaic Law. That the New and Everlasting Covenant is fulfilled in and by Christ and all persons who are in Christ have the righteous requirements of the Law imputed to them. The author claims that there is no longer a need to practice the law, the Old Testament Law to worship and serve God and that the Law could have never given the people who practiced it the real forgiveness of sins and the true righteousness and holiness required by God.

    Therefore, since Jesus Christ is indeed everybody’s rest from any works, the works of the law. We no longer have to work to gain favor with God, we no longer have to work to try and gain enough righteousness and holiness to be accepted and to be saved.

    The keeping of the Sabbath if you recall, was a real big issue in Jesus’ ministry days. The Pharisees constantly tried to accuse Jesus of violating the Sabbath. He did not and could not because He is indeed the Lord of the Sabbath.

    Mark 2:27-28 And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

    Once again, I cannot repeat this enough, we clearly understand by Scripture that the celebration of days, festivals, and the use or prohibition of certain foods are not an issue in a true sense. In other words, if a person keeps the days, festivals and ordinances in a legalistic way, tied to the practice of the Mosaic Law to work to earn salvation, righteousness and to try and earn God’s favor, in such case the entire thing is illegal and heretic.

    If a person understands that salvation and favor with God are through and by Christ’s work of redemption and His merits and virtues only, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ; in this case if a person would like to observe days, festivals or eat or abstain from certain foods but not tie them to any type of seeking favor with God or adding to one’s already attained salvation and justification earned and imputed to us through and by Jesus only, Paul says it should not be judged and controversies about this should not ensue in the church.

    As we said before, even in the church often these types of controversies and judgments come alive regarding the celebration of certain days like Christmas or in some cases even Easter, which is indeed the least controversial one of them. Yet, many believers pass, even harsh judgment on others regarding them celebrating these so-called holidays.

    The entire idea and principle that oftentimes is brought up is that these holidays have a pagan background and therefore should be abstained from being celebrated. Another issue is, some claim, that since no one knows Jesus’ real birth date, we should not speculate and accept and celebrate this day.

    As I said before, even though some of these reasons at first may seem valid, yet the passage we are studying debunks these theories.

    The basic answer to this subject is found in the following verses:

    Romans 14:6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.

    As we see, all this is very clear, it needs very little if any explanation at all. This puts to rest all and every objection or controversy about celebrating any day or not celebrating a day and eating certain foods or abstaining from eating them.

    If we celebrate the days to the Lord we celebrate the Lord, those who do not celebrate these days they do not for the Lord. This entire principle will be taken up again in another setting at the end of the chapter where Paul says:

    Romans 14:22-23 Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

    What Paul is saying here will be explained better when we study these last two verses, suffices to say that a person may believe that celebrating a day, eating some foods or drinking wine may be sinful.

    The principle is the same as at the beginning of the chapter, it’s regarding a person’s faith. Even though these things Paul is talking about are not sinful in themselves, some people with weak faith, meaning with less knowledge or understanding in these matters may think they are.
    In such cases, unless they are instructed Biblically and taught and unless they are willing to understand and change their view, in other words, mature and grow in their faith and become assured that these things are not sinful these things will remain sinful to them, in their minds. This is called violating a person’s conscience and if, as Paul says, something is not believed by and with the proper faith to force a person to violate their conscience and level of faith they have attained the practice becomes sinful to them. For example, a person who believes, for whatever reason that drinking alcoholic beverages is sinful to do they believe it for themselves and such it should be. Another believer who knows that drinking alcoholic beverages is not forbidden in Scripture we should not cause who thinks it is to sin by forcing them to drink. This is a principle we must obey in such cases. In forcing such a person to drink, eat, observe a day, or to do anything else that is not inherently sinful but which they believe might be, is causing a person to sin because of their doubts and their limited understanding.

    We should not judge harshly anyone regarding things that are not sinful. The person also who, for example, thinks that they sin if they do or not do such things should not judge the others who practice them.

    One may think these things are sinful to them but they must not apply the same principles to others. This is the entire subject Paul is speaking about in this chapter.

    Romans 14:6-9 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 To this end, Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

    Paul now goes on saying that believers, born again believers, do not live to themselves nor die to themselves, in life we are to live to the Lord and in dying also. In life and death, we belong to God now.

    Once we belonged to Satan and ourselves. Even though God had chosen us to be in Christ before the foundation of the world we must remember that we still, for a time belonged to Satan and we still walked in the flesh and are like all others by our sinful nature children of God’s wrath.

    Ephesians 2:1-3 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

    Then Paul says this:

    Ephesians 2:4-7 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

    God saved us, by His mercy and love even then, when we were still dead in sin made us, He made us alive together with Christ and so that we have no doubt at all to the fact that in reality, we did absolutely nothing to merit or earn our salvation, he says by grace we have been saved.

    Now that God saved us and made us His children Scripture says we belong to God. We have been bought out of the slave market of sin and death and out of Satan’s possession by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Now we do not belong to ourselves any longer, we are God’s property, spirit, soul, and body we belong to God. Christ bought us for God with His blood and His life.

    1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

    This is actually repeated twice here and in:

    2 Corinthians 5:15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

    We are no longer our own, we belong to God and we cannot just do as we please with our lives and our bodies. We must do God’s will not what we want!

    We have seen in the study of the previous chapter that as Christians we cannot so what we want with our bodies that is abusive or sinful. We cannot place our bodies in the condition to be damaged or abused by anything because our bodies do not belong to us they belong to God. Yet, as 1 Corinthians 6:20 says we must glorify God in body and spirit. This speaks of things of spiritual nature as well. You see when we belong to God everything becomes a spiritual issue because God is Spirit and we worship God in spirit and truth, John 4:23-24.

    God’s will is all, all of it, delineated and revealed in Scripture, we don’t need to be unsure of what we should do or not do. Every commandment, every statute, every principle that reveals and explains what God’s will is or might be is found in Scripture.

    When we want to know God’s will for our life all we need to do is find out in His word. We need to study, reading, patience, prayer, and counsel to know and understand God’s will. There will be no signs, no wonders, no dreams, no voices, no lighted billboards from heaven, to tell us but it takes all the things I mentioned through these we know God’s will. We have seen in chapter 12 verse 2 that the essence of knowing and understanding God’s will is, we must renew our minds, we need to achieve the mind and the thoughts of God. The more we see things God’s way the more we know what His perfect, good and acceptable will are.

    We belong to God and therefore now we live and die for God, or at least we should!

    Paul says that this principle should be transferred to this very subject that we are talking about here, in other words, celebrating days or eating foods, not celebrating them and not eating certain foods.

    Therefore when Paul says in verse 9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

    He is saying that Christ died and rose again to life so that He might be the Lord of all, both the dead and the living.

    Jesus is the Lord of all! Whether we are alive or dead we believers belong to Him, in fact as we said before, He bought us to become God’s possession, to make us children of God.
    Once we were God’s enemies but now we are His adopted children, and nevertheless we are His children through Jesus Christ His only begotten Son.

    He bought us so that death could no longer have dominion over us and no longer possess us.

    Let us remember what Jesus said in a couple of places when He made these statements:

    Matthew 22:31-33 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32’I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

    John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

    These statements are clear, God is the God of the living because Jesus is the resurrection and the life and as He says those who believe in Him even though they may die physically they shall live and whoever lives and believes in Him will never die. This is not a contradiction it’s a certainty, that is why Jesus says this!

    The believer therefore in life and death belongs to God even because the believer in reality never dies even though the physical body dies and decays the soul, the spirit of a believer returns to God and it lives on until God reunites the believers’ spirit to a new eternal and glorified, spiritual and yet physical body. This the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the transformation of the living believers at Jesus’ return to earth, see 1 Corinthians 15:50-56; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17.

    Jesus is indeed the Lord of the living, these are the Christians, as we have seen the believer is always alive in Christ, however, many, even believers erroneously think that Satan is the Lord of the unbelievers and those who will undergo the commonly known second death or eternal damnation.

    This thought is erroneous because although seemingly Satan seems to be lord of the unbelievers, he is only by default and only temporarily. In reality Jesus is the Lord of all, actually, Jesus is even Lord over Satan himself. Satan and his demons have no authority or power unless permitted by God Himself, in other words, Jesus Himself.

    Scripture confirms in many places that Jesus is Lord, Lord of all!

    Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    Colossians 1:17-18 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

    Colossians 2:9-10 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

    As we see, Jesus is the Lord of all, even the unbelievers, as they will indeed bow their knees to His Lordship and will confess that He is Lord. They may not do it now voluntarily but they will and He also has the absolute preeminence overall! In addition, we have seen that He is the head of all principality and power, all of them!

    Although He is separated from and transcendent from all evil He still has final power and authority over all power and principalities.

    Let’s remember there is no evil in God at all, see also, Job 34:10-11; 1 John 1:5; James 1:13-17.

    As we said Jesus is Lord of the living and the dead and He is the One who holds the keys of hell and death, not Satan, Jesus does!

    Revelation 1:18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

    Jesus has lordship and authority over everyone and everything, just look at what it says in Revelation 20:

    Revelation 20:13-15 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

    Let’s make no mistake, as much as many people, even believers believe that it’s Satan that sends people to hell, basically that it’s the devil who has power over death and hell and sends people to hell, it’s not! It is indeed God that has the authority and the power to send people into hell. Of course, He does not do it frivolously or capriciously or for no good reason.

    We know, by now, I hope, see the study of Romans 3, that all people are sinners and all deserve to be damned into eternal judgment into eternal damnation because of our sinful nature.

    This is exactly why God came up with a salvation plan, otherwise, all would indeed perish.

    It is, therefore, man’s sinfulness and man’s condition that sends people to eternal damnation, yet it is indeed God who is the ultimate judge and He is the One who has determined whom He will have mercy upon and whom He lets go to their sealed destiny; sealed by their willful rebellion. See also Exodus 33:19; Romans 9:14-16.

    Jesus in the Gospels told us it is indeed God who has the authority and the power to send people into damnation in Gehenna.

    Matthew10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

    Matthew 25:41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

    Luke 12:4-5 “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

    Luke 13:24-28 Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ 26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.

    At the end of all this we clearly understand that God is absolutely sovereign over all of His creation, all of it! Since God the Father has declared Jesus Lord of all, see again Philippians 2:9-11.

    Jesus is the Lord and the judge who will judge the living and the dead after His Second coming, Acts 17:30-31; 2 Timothy 4:1.

    He’s not coming as the meek and mild and humble servant but as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He will be meting the full measure of the wrath of God on all His and our enemies and the Antichrist and false prophet and eventually all unrepentant sinners and even Satan,

    Revelation 20:13-15.

    Revelation 14:9-11 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

    Revelation 19:11-21Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. 17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, 18 that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.

    Jesus is the Lord of all, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, He is and will be the supreme judge of the living and the dead, He is the One who holds the keys of death and hell and has the power and authority over them.

    He is indeed the Lord of the living and the dead!

    Romans 14:10-13 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written:

    “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.”

    12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.

    Paul again confronts the believers with the question: why do you judge your brother and why do you show contempt for your brother.

    The two terminologies judging and showing contempt here are connected and they are negative and even prohibited behavior in the church.

    This is not judging righteously and using God’s judgments delineated in His word. This is disobeying God’s word and using a measure of judgment that is personal and not in line with God’s word. This type of judgment is nothing but judging others with our personal opinions or beliefs that are using ourselves or our own opinions with some kind of self-righteous attitude.

    We cannot ever, judge others using ourselves as the measure or standard with which we judge others.

    Again, this is exactly the kind of judgment that Jesus criticizes and prohibits us from practicing.

    In fact, when we use ourselves as a standard of judgment more often than not we end up having contempt for other believers.

    The Greek word used translated contempt means to consider less even to make nothing of someone, despise someone.

    We ought not to do this or have this sentiment for our brothers and sisters especially over things such as the celebration of days, feasts or the use or abstention of certain foods and drinks.

    Once again, let’s use alcoholic beverages as an example. Many, very many believers believe that drinking alcoholic beverages including wine is sinful. We did, however, see on the study if the previous chapter that it is not, I would not want to get deep into this subject again but I fell the need to once again address this very issue as this seems to be a context that is even more closely related to this.

    As we stated in our study od chapter 13, drinking wine or strong drink, in other words, alcoholic beverages are not inherently sinful in itself. What is sinful is living in a state of drunkenness or being controlled by any substance to the point that it can and will bring harm to ourselves and others. Drunkenness is the prohibited thing not drinking alcoholic beverages with moderation.
    The word of God does not forbid drinking alcoholic beverages at all. If that were the case Jesus would have sinned as well as He did drink wine. In addition, He would have sinned as well when He turned water into wine.

    Now, I know that to justify not drinking at all some Christians and many Pastors try to do exegetic calisthenics to prove that the wine Jesus drank did not have an alcoholic content and some say that it was just about not fermented grape juice.

    I hate to burst their interpretative bubble but that is not an accurate interpretation as to what and how wine was in those days.

    Some pastors try so hard to demonize wine and even strong drink, meaning alcoholic beverages. Some of these are even famous Pastors, some of which I highly esteem as good interpreters of Scripture. Unfortunately, even some times, to make their personal beliefs coincide with Scripture create and look for all kinds of things to fit their narrative.

    Scripture is so logical that often we do not need to seek too much additional information to understand it. It makes itself understood pretty good, the main thing is we need to meditate and think about what we are reading.

    There are times when we need to really dive into the cultural context to better understand the text and the meaning, there are many other times, when we get to understand a topic or a subject throughout the entire counsel and context of the word of God and by using logical common sense which comes from the text itself.

    Throughout Scripture, we clearly understand that wine had to be fermented and certainly have the potential to make one drunk.

    Back from the book of Genesis we see this to be the case:

    Genesis 9:20-21 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: 21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

    Noah became a farmer. He planted a vineyard. He drank the wine, not the grape juice, drank fermented wine and he became drunk. Therefore, we see that the wine described here was indeed potentially able to make one intoxicated.

    2 Samuel 11:13 And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his house.

    In order to convince Uriah to go and be with his wife, after she became pregnant by David through adultery, David makes Uriah drunk. Once again the wine in question indeed contained amounts of alcohol sufficient to make one drunk.

    Jesus also said this:

    Luke 5:37-39 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. 39 And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’ “

    Knowing something about wine, we understand from this discourse that the new wine is not put into the old wineskins because otherwise, the new wine breaks the old wineskins. Why is this happening? Because old wineskins have lost their elasticity and can only contain old wine because it has already undergone the fermentation process. On the other hand, while wine ages it continues the process of fermentation which causes the fermentation gases to cause the wine to boil with fermentation which causes great pressure in the skins. If the wineskins are new like the wine they are still elastic and they expand to accommodate the fermentation of the new wine. The skins that have already undergone many of these contractions become good only to contain wine that has already undergone the process of fermentation. The new wine must be put into new skins and the old wine must be put into the old skins because the fermentation of the new wine would cause the eruption of the old skins.

    All this shows that old wine is indeed fermented wine that has an alcohol content that can make a person drunk.

    In this passage, we also clearly understand that Jesus is referring to the older aged wine as being better tasting and better in quality than the newer wine. This can only be true if the wine is indeed fermented and aged. We all know that aged older wine is usually of better quality than newer wine. We also know that in order for the wine to age well it must indeed be fermented and as it ages it will also become stronger in alcohol content.

    Therefore, based on this statement and knowledge of how wine is made and how it ages, we clearly understand that the wine in question had indeed alcoholic content and it could indeed cause drunkenness and intoxication.

    Jesus also stated this next thing:

    Matthew 11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil.

    Jesus is mentioning John the Baptist and He says that John did not eat as most people ate,
    see Matthew 3:4, and he was forbidden by God to drink or eat any fruit of the vine, Luke 1:15.

    Gabriel the Archangel told Zachariah, John’s father, that they were going to have a child, John. Their child was forbidden to drink both wine and strong drink.

    Let’s think about all this for a moment. If wine was not alcoholic as some say and if drinking is forbidden entirely as some say, why did Gabriel have to command Zachariah that John should not drink wine and strong drink, which is booze?

    If, as some say, drinking alcoholic beverages is sinful then why does Gabriel specify that John should not drink them?

    If drinking alcoholic beverages is inherently sinful then why does Gabriel need to specify that John should not. If drinking is sinful it would be known already by all and there would be no need to forbid John to drink.

    In Scripture, we see that it is drunkenness that is a sin and is forbidden. We also clearly see that drinking wine and strong drink is not inherently sinful when it is done moderately and when we do not turn it into drunkenness and as Paul says, a way to carouse, to party and get drunk and intoxicated.

    Jesus also said this immediately following the previous passage:

    Matthew 11:19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.

    He is saying that He, differently from John, ate and drank as anyone else did.

    In fact, because He did so and He was accused by the self-righteous Pharisees to be a glutton and a drunkard.

    The word translated winebibber is the Greek word oinopótees,the same is a compound word and the first one is oino which means wine. In its totality, it means an abuser of wine, a drunkard.

    Let’s think about this for a moment. If the wine Jesus drank did not have the potential to make Him drunk, why would they accuse Him of being a drunkard? Think about it, we want to be Biblical experts and scholars and we should be, however would they, the Pharisees, who lived in those days, and knew how the wine was and knew that indeed it could make one drunk, otherwise they would not actually could not, accuse Jesus of being a drunkard if the wine He drank was merely grape juice as some say.

    Once again the Bible teaches us that drinking in itself is not sinful until it causes us to be intoxicated and out of control.

    The fruit of the Holy Spirit among many others is self-control. We should not be out of control. We should not be intoxicated with alcohol rather under the influence of the Holy Spirit, that is what Paul says in:

    Ephesians 5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,

    Once again we see that it is not drinking wine that is forbidden but being drunk is indeed sin. Indeed we understand from this passage that the wine of that day had the potential to make one drunk, it was not merely grape juice.

    Drinking alcoholic beverages in a controlled and moderate way is not a sin, in fact even describing the qualifications of pastors, elders and deacons we see that it is not drinking that is forbidden but the way one does it that may become sinful in other words forbidden.

    1 Timothy 3:2-3 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness,

    1 Timothy 3:8 Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine,

    As we understand here the drinking in itself is not forbidden or sinful. The qualifications are not to be drunkards, not indulge in a lot of drinking. The pastors, elders, and deacons must be temperate in all things and not drunkards. Not dependent on these substances which means to be physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects.

    So Jesus drank but was not a drunkard, church elders drank but were not drunkards. Drunkenness is sinful drinking is not.

    Paul even tells Timothy to drink some wine for medicinal purposes:

    1 Timothy 5:23 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.

    As we see, Paul would have never told Timothy to drink wine if it were a thing that is prohibited or inherently sinful. Why would he? He wouldn’t!

    In conclusion, we see the word of God does not forbid controlled and moderate drinking of alcoholic beverages rather it forbids drunkenness, carousing, debauchery, chambering. This is referred to as partying with drunken behavior and a loss of moral control.

    So now that we have established all this when a pastor or believer insists saying that drinking alcoholic beverages is sinful they are not saying something that is true in a biblical way. However, if we look at what this chapter of Romans 14 is saying it is they who have a weaker faith than those who believe that it’s not sinful and it is permitted because it is indeed permitted and it is indeed not sinful. Besides even as we mentioned before to them, even though it is not Scripturally prohibited and sinful to those who wholeheartedly believe that it is, that becomes sinful for them. It seems like it’s a contradiction and we will see this point better when we tackle the last verses of this chapter, but because a person violates their conscience and the thing is not fueled by faith in the word of God then is a person does that very thing it becomes sinful to them only. In a nutshell, this is what these verses mean.

    Romans 14:22-23 Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

    It is obvious that if a person is taught even erroneously that drinking is sinful and they go on believing that it is even if it is not in reality, to them, because they would not do it convinced by the determination of faith in God’s word, to them it becomes sinful.

    We will study this passage better and more in-depth later. Suffices to say at this point that we must not argue with other believers of these issues because they are not essential to one’s salvation. If any doctrinal issue does not have to do with God’s person, His attributes, the Gospel and the essential doctrine of God and salvation, Paul is saying we cannot argue and judge others over issues such as celebrating days, feasts, food and drinks.

    This works both ways by the way! The one who believes that it is sinful for them to drink wine or such cannot judge the brothers who do, however, the believer that knows by God’s word that drinking wine and such drinks is not sinful is the one that should avoid offending the conscience of the brother that does.
    In other words, as the chapter goes on the teaching we should not use what we are permitted to do as permission to do it and make others sin or violate their consciences.

    We should not judge one another in these matters. Of course, it is much easier to judge a believer that drinks wine or alcohol as one who is sinning. This happens because automatically the person who does not drink feels more righteous or holy than the one who does and yet, what they are doing is they are acting like those Pharisees that judged Jesus in the same way and for the same reason.

    It is much easier to arrive at an unrighteous judgment of someone who does what we do not even if what they do is indeed not sinful.

    We have seen in the study of the previous chapter that some things are inherently sinful and that many Christians think they are not such as smoking for example.

    Drinking is not sinful or harmful if and when is done in moderation and even medically we know this to be true, even before we saw that Paul directed Timothy to drink wine for medicinal purposes.

    Yet when it comes to smoking, for example, we know today that medically it is always harmful even if done in very small quantity or even sporadically.

    We need to be instructed and educated properly on these issues to live in conformity with God’s word and His will.

    The word of God says:

    Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge,

    I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God,

    I also will forget your children.

    Indeed it is true! As we see here, God is speaking about His people, in this particular case, Israel. However, this is a principle that can and does also involve directly the church today.

    Believers can and will be destroyed in many ways, will perish physically, will become ill physically and even spiritually because they lack the proper type of knowledge. This is true about everyone by the way, believers and non-believers. In the non-believers’ case, this destruction and perishing are even greater and it is in the end eternal. For the believer in Jesus Christ, it is not eternal destruction or death yet very serious consequences, the destruction of one’s earthly life, health, finances, ministry and even the loss of eternal rewards can and will occur because of this lack of knowledge.

    It is absolutely true! As we see here, God is speaking about His people, in this particular case, Israel. However, this is a principle that can and does also involve directly the church today.

    Believers can and will be destroyed in many ways, will perish physically, will become ill physically and even spiritually because they lack the proper type of knowledge. This is true about everyone, by the way, believers and non-believers. In the non-believers’ case, this destruction and perishing are even greater and it is in the ned eternal. For the believer in Jesus Christ, it is not eternal destruction or death yet very serious consequences, the destruction of one’s earthly life, health, finances, ministry and even the loss of eternal rewards can and will occur because of this lack of knowledge.

    The knowledge God is talking about is made very clear, it is the knowledge of God and the instruction of His word. It is the lack of knowledge of who God is and how He is, it is the lack of knowledge also of things that are or can be closely related to God’s word, His commandments and His principles.

    We studied at length in chapter 12:2 how important the issue of renewing our minds is essential to know God’s will. Renewing our mind is indeed the equivalent of achieving God’s knowledge, having God’s knowledge. The lack of this knowledge causes, as God said in Hosea 4:6, God’s people to be destroyed in many different ways.

    We need to be able to discern the right things in our lives and the knowledge of God is the only thing that will allow us to do so.

    Ignorance about God’s things, therefore, is dangerous in so many different ways!

    This does have to do with what we are studying because what Paul is bringing up in this chapter has exactly all to do with having the proper knowledge of God.

    Not being yet mature in God’s knowledge causes people to be more judgmental about things they even ought not be judged at all, even as Paul is saying.

    Ignorance is a great destroyer, in fact, Paul later on in the chapter says exactly that as we will see,
    Romans 14:20.

    We all risk to be destroyers in some way when we are ignorant about God’s truth. This is why God warns that His people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. We see a lot of churches, a lot of believers’ lives, a lot of ministries that end up destroyed because of ignorance, for the lack of knowledge regarding God, His ways and His word.

    The wrong information about God, His ways and His word cause many problems and Paul, in reality, God does not desire that believers’ lives be destroyed or harmed by ignorance.

    This is another reason why it is so important and imperative that pastors/elders take very seriously the commandment of the Great Commission and Ephesians 4:11-16.

    Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

    Ephesians 4:11-16 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ– 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

    When pastors/elders take their God-given responsibilities and ministries seriously they will teach God’s word properly, they will address these issues and in addition they will teach the believers under their care about issues regarding the very things we are speaking about here, such as the celebration of days, feasts and eating of foods and drinking of drinks.

    The responsibility of pastors/elders is to teach all the doctrines of Christ and the Apostles to believers as Jesus commands and to bring all the believers to be equipped for the work of the ministry and the growth of the body of Christ and to bring all believers to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of Christ.

    These passages again are so important and often so neglected as they are written.

    Many of these exhortations and commandments today are neglected and often of they are somewhat practiced, they are practiced erroneously.

    Let’s briefly look at them and why today much of the church lays in ignorance and often does not come to the unity of the faith and even more believers do not get equipped for the work of the ministry.

    First of all, let’s briefly look a the Great Commission our Lord commanded.

    Today and for many, many years already, the Lord’s commandment given to the Apostles in Matthew 28 has been taught and unfortunately exclusively to promote and command the church to evangelize.

    This Commission is used by many to say that the entire church is responsible to preach the Gospel and they use this Scripture to lay on every believer’s back the responsibility to be actively involved in evangelism. In reality, though the real scope of this Great Commission is indeed the same as what we read in Ephesians 4:11-16.

    Let me say that there is an element of truth in what is taught regarding the Great Commission and evangelism, the entire church can be in some ways a coworker in the spreading of the Gospel in the world. However, there are many different ways the church and every believer can contribute to the spreading of the Gospel. Yet, the Lord’s commandment is not a general blanket commandment to all in the church to be evangelists.

    It is expressly clear by the reading of Ephesians 4:11 that there are many different ministries in the church and although they are indeed all connected to the propagation of the Gospel in the world and community, all believers are not called to preach the Gospel which is the way the church evangelizes. Preaching the Gospel is indeed the only way real and true evangelism is supposed to be done.
    Romans 10:17; 1 Corinthians 1:21;2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:2-3.

    Evangelists are called such and to them, God has given the call and responsibility to be the ones to preach the Gospel. The Evangelists can also be as we know them today missionaries and yet even missionaries can be other than evangelists as they can be called at times to become pastors/teachers in the church. In Paul’s days, since the foundation of the church was still being laid and since the written word was being written and not yet completed and much of the known world at the time was being evangelized still, the ministers and ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 were such as mentioned. When the work of the Apostles and prophets was done, Ephesians 2:20; the official position of Apostle and prophet cease to exist in that exact function that it had then. Even then once the church in a city or area was established, elder/pastors/teachers were appointed to lead the church in those cities, Titus 1:5.

    Apostles and prophets as Ephesians 2:20 says were the foundation of the church. We do know that once the foundation is laid the building gets built or edified upon that foundation. Once the foundation is laid there is no need to keep laying the foundation. Therefore from this fact alone we know that the offices of Apostle and prophet ended and in reality, many of the traits of those offices are still present in the church but they have been passed on to other ministers. The foundation of the church is the doctrines we have today in the written word. The Apostles and prophets are the ones that back then wrote completed the New Testament Scriptures. Today there is no more need to have direct revelation from God because we have the completed word of God.

    Therefore elders/pastors/teachers and evangelists are those who today have replaced the Apostles and prophets by absorbing some of the responsibilities of those offices. Evangelists which also in many cases are called missionaries have taken the mantle and responsibilities to preach the Gospel and to plant churches where there are none. In this ministry, they do the duties of the Apostles and yet they are to teach an preach the already written Scriptures.

    Once the church is established in those areas they are to train others as Ephesians 4:11 says equipping them for the work of the ministry, then the church appoints elders/pastors who then teach and make disciples of Christ and the cycle then repeats itself.

    This is actually what the Great Commission is all about!

    So as we see, evangelism as important as it is is not the end of the Great Commission, it’s a part of it, expressly the beginning part of it. Making disciples, which is what Ephesians 4:11-16 teaches as well, is the crux of the Great Commission.

    So the aspect of the Great Commission and Ephesians 4:11-16 is, yes to propagate the Gospel, yet that task is to establish the church and to bring the believers not only to be equipped for the ministry but also to all come to the unity of the faith, all to believe in Christ and His word in the same way, in accordance with the doctrines, especially those written in the New Testament Scriptures. This is making disciples teaching them all that Jesus taught the Apostles as it is commanded in the Great Commission. In addition to taking every believer to the acknowledgment of sound doctrine, in other words, the knowledge of God so that there is no longer spiritual and biblical ignorance in the church.

    As we said this ignorance is what gets believers in all kinds of troubles including what Paul is saying here in Romans 14.

    However, I want to briefly touch on another issue mentioned in the Ephesians 4 passage, we were looking at, and that issue is the equipping of the saints for the ministry.

    This is for me a very touchy subject because I know that many, many people in the church do not see things as I see them in Scripture nor do they believe what I do about this subject.

    The New Testament Scripture clearly shows that believers are supposed to be trained and equipped for the ministry in the church. This means that in the local church pastor/elder/teachers, as well as the Apostles and prophets back then, are the ones called by God to train and equip believers for the work of the ministry. This is exactly what Ephesians 4:11-12 says. Besides, Paul tells the following to Timothy:

    2 Timothy 2:1-2 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

    Let me say this, I believe that what happened back then and subsequently for some centuries after was that, first the Apostles taught, even as Paul says many times about Timothy, the doctrines and made disciples and then ordained them as ministers in the local churches. Back then they did not have seminaries or bible schools like today to train believers for the ministry.

    The pastors-elders-teachers should always be formed in the local church where they are from and I believe they should not often come from outside the local church. There are very good reasons for this. The pastors-elders-teachers that come from the same local church are known, trusted and they also know the other people of that very church so that there is greater trust and greater care for the people in that particular church.

    This is the Apostolic pattern in the church! Today we have in many ways allowed wolves to come inside the church from the outside even because people who come from the outside are not known as well as people who have grown and are trained and raised right from within the local church.

    This is always the best scenario and should be sought after in most cases. This does not mean that a person trained and raised in and from the local church will always be optimal. Paul warned the Ephesian church of this very fact:

    Acts 20:29-31 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.

    As we see, Paul warns that savage wolves would come in among the church. This is the wolves that would come in from without the church. This is why we should be very careful and very leery about allowing ministers in the church from outside the church. These were those who were allowed to come somehow into the church, perhaps through some pretense of having some Apostolic qualifications or offices. These people who were allowed to come in and teach taught false doctrines and did things not befitting sound Apostolic doctrine.

    Paul then mentions later: also from among you men will rise up, speaking perverse things and drawing away disciples after themselves.

    No doubt, many of these men who would rise from among them speaking false doctrines and drawing away disciples, were some who were affected by the false doctrines of those who came into the church from without. Of course many others most likely began believing strange things beyond what they were taught, and this they did on their own. Paul warns the church and then he warns again telling them to watch. Watch means to be watchful, to be like sentinels watching for the enemy when he comes. Paul warned them for three years, day and night with tears. This is how serious Paul is about this! He is warning them continually with great emotion and painstaking care. This is what a real pastor does! A real pastor/elder guards the church and makes sure that this condition does not exist.

    Yet, unfortunately, this happens less and less in the church, especially today! Why? Because, pastors have become hirelings, they have become mercenaries in most cases. When one becomes a pastor/elder as a career or paying job this is what happens. We talked about all this already, the money becomes the motivating factor in the church and for the minister as well. The fear of man seeps in and replaces the fear of God and all kind of problems ensue from this situation. Even this happens because the ministry has become a career rather than a vocation and because most churches today seek to hire ministers rather than raise them from within. This causes churches to become like corporations rather than families and offering salaries and benefits packages and competing with other churches for the same positions to be filled.

    None of this is ever seen and mentioned in Scripture. Why? Because it was never meant to be like this!

    So what happened in church history? What happened is this, that Biblical schools and seminaries were something that happened much, much later, in fact, they are very recent especially on the Protestant/Evangelical side of Christianity.

    Historically Bible colleges or schools are as recent as the 19th century.

    The whole idea of getting college degrees to signify that you have been trained adequately as a minister, at least in theory, is very recent as we said, and previous to the formation of these particular schools the formation, training and equipping of the ministers in the church was done within the local church itself.

    Many today justify this more recent way of training for ministry is biblical by having founded denominational colleges and bible schools, such as the Baptist denomination does, as well as many others. However, there are also many other stand-alone seminaries and bible colleges and schools which are not connected to any particular denomination. The most troublesome thing is that all these schools today are very expensive to frequent and cause many financial hardships and even debt to those who frequent them. I believe that this was done purely as a matter of convenience just as the practice of the church meeting in public buildings rather than homes. Yet there is another most troublesome aspect of both these issues, in other words, the church meeting in public buildings and the establishment of Bible schools and seminaries.

    That is the aspect of the financial burden both these practices place on the church and the believers who feel they are called by God into the ministry and who need training and need to be equipped to do so.

    I believe that in the beginning, God had given the church a perfect pattern to be able to meet as a church and even train and equip believers for the work of the ministry without financial burdens and hardships.

    Another thing as we mentioned before is the problem of causing believers who want to frequent these schools because of their call and the main two problems are these, one is the problem of travel, being away from family and home, especially when a person is called to ministry at a more advanced age. The second problem is that the church itself causes believers to accrue debt to be able to attend these schools to be trained and equipped for ministry.

    The New Testament Scripture exhorts believers not to be in debt and this instance should be no different from others. It’s not that debt in itself is a sin, yet God prefers we do not have any.

    Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.

    God has given the church the way to meet and train believers for the ministry without great expenses and certainly without incurring into debt.

    It is the church that in time has abandoned God-given patterns to handle these things and by doing so the church complicated every believer’s life by placing unnecessary financial burdens on them.

    Another troublesome thing that arose from all this also is the commercialization of church and even equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.

    I know many believers, in fact, most, justify these changes to the God-given pattern, in fact, often we wonder what Paul means in his letters when he mentions traditions in the church? They are church traditions passed on by the Apostles to the rest of the church.

    1 Corinthians 11:2 Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.

    2 Thessalonians 2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.

    We must understand that word tradition Paul uses is also translated from the original Greek as the word ordinances. In those days not everything was transmitted in writing. The Apostles had Apostolic authority and therefore what they taught and spoke had the same authority as what New Testament Scripture has later on. The very word ordinance in the place of tradition gives a better understanding that what Paul means is that these are not just suggestions, but they are indeed as binding as written commandments. They were commandments passed down orally rather than in written form. As we see Paul does mention in the 2 Thessalonians 2 passage that these are ordinances taught by word or by Epistle.

    This word or term, therefore, does not have the same meaning used by the Roman Catholic church which declares its traditions to be equivalent to those of the Apostles.

    It declares this because it believes that the Pope has the same apostolic authority as the Apostles of Christ.

    It is clear that this is not the case at all, there is no real Apostolic succession as the Roman religion teaches. Even if there had been such a thing the Roman church claims, from its history, she is incapable of demonstrating a real Apostolic succession, one that can be considered valid. Thus the traditions of the Roman church are by no means of the same type as those mentioned by Paul in his epistles. The Apostles until the Scripture of the New Testament was completed and later canonized, had divine authority to give valid ordinances to the church in an oral and even written manner, but let us not forget that these traditions or ordinances were in perfect harmony with the doctrines we find written in New Testamentary Scripture.

    However, Scripture is clear today it would be the pastors/elders who should recognize spiritual gifts in believers and then help them in becoming equipped for the work of the ministry. It does not seem to me that there was a need in the church to form biblical colleges or seminaries. Doing so has indeed complicated the training of people for the ministry, it also has caused to place people in positions of ministry in which they do not belong while keeping out believers that should belong in ministry.

    Once again, many claim that even through Bible colleges and seminaries the Apostolic commandments given in Ephesians 4:11-12 and 2 Timothy 2:1-2 to the church are obeyed and observed just the same.

    I feel that it’s a bit of a stretch to say the commandments are obeyed in this way. Perhaps they are, but they are done in a way much, more difficult to practice and straying from the pattern and traditions passed down from the Apostles and even by Jesus in the Great Commission.

    I am not a firm believer that pragmatism is a good practice in the church. I do not believe that the means justify the end. When we are talking about God’s word, commandments, instructions, principles and even Apostolic traditions and patterns, I do not believe pragmatism is to be employed easily, if at all.

    We find these issues that we just talked about to be connected to the reason as to why there is great ignorance in the church and why God’s people are caused to be destroyed for the lack of Godly knowledge, lack of the knowledge of God’s word. We also said that this is exactly why there is wrong judgment among Christians and why there is still weak faith in the church. Understandably, a recent convert may have a weak faith regarding many things and definitely regarding the subjects Paul is talking about in this chapter.

    Yet there are many, too many, Christians who are such for many years and still have a great deal of biblical ignorance and display weak faith in many things. Once again, this is due to several issues, but one big reason as we stated even earlier is the lack of proper teaching and training and this is the ministers’ fault, as we saw. Many so-called pastors, elders, and teachers today do not teach and train believers in their congregation properly.

    Think about it for a minute, how many do you think teach Romans chapter 14 in the churches? How many today teach systematic expository teaching of Scripture?
    It’s very rare today. Today instead most churches are relegated to hear superficial sermons and usually regarding the same subjects, over and over again. Many pastors today are not even properly trained to do expository teaching of Scripture. Many today think that even if they were able to do decent expository teaching that the people would be bored if exposed to it.

    In reality, unfortunately by neglecting this kind of preaching they are causing a short circuit in the growth of the people’s faith and godly knowledge and as we even saw before.

    The lack of godly knowledge and weak faith is what causes bad judgment and causes, as Paul said, some to despise other believers.

    The lack of knowledge as Hosea 4:6 says, will destroy God’s people and often sadly it ends up destroying entire congregations.

    Paul then says in the rest of the passage we are studying: For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.”

    We need to clarify immediately what Paul is saying here so that we do not misunderstand this very important issue of God’s judgment.

    Every human being, saved and not saved will undergo God’s judgment! This is true!

    Nevertheless, the judgment in question will be a different type of judgment! Unbelievers are judged about their life’s deeds, judged for their unbelief and sin in conjunction with the level of knowledge of God they acquired during their lifetime. We covered this concept several times before, suffice to say, that the more revelation of God a person has the greater the judgment will be for their unbelief and their sinfulness.

    We said it several times when a person does not have the revelation of the fullness of God, in other words, Jesus Christ and the Gospel, they are held to the level of knowledge of God they have.

    Scripture tells us all mankind, all of it, is dead in sin. Whether you live in a metropolitan area with churches and Gospel everywhere, whether you live in the suburbs, in a rural area even in the deepest most isolated jungle and never had the opportunity of knowing Jesus Christ or hearing the Gospel, every person, everywhere is born in sin and is a sinner, and consequently the Bible says deserving God’s wrath and eternal judgment.

    There is no escaping it! All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, all!

    Romans 3:9-19 gives us ample evidence that no person is righteous, no one understands God and no one understands spiritual things, see also 1 Corinthians 2:14. It also says that no one seeks after God
    this is a very troublesome reality for those in the church who insist that people seek after God. No one does good, no not one! The passage goes on describing how man is not only incapable but also unwilling to seek God and His righteousness. It ends by saying this:

    “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

    As we see, it ends by saying that all the world may become guilty before God.

    Further on Paul says:

    Romans 3:22-23 for there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

    Even Romans 1 claims that every human being is without excuse before God, without excuse for their sinfulness and for their unbelief and consequent idolatry.

    Romans 1:18-25 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man–and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

    This passage is an indictment of all people and the passage that takes away all excuses and possibility to anyone to justify themselves before God by playing the ignorance card, in other words saying that they did not know God and attempt to, therefore, justify their consequent unbelief and sinfulness.

    This passage takes away every and all possibility to do it because as the passage states, they know God their creator, this knowledge is interior and exterior to every man everywhere!

    Inwardly man knows he is made in the likeness and image of God, see Genesis 1:26-27 and God has given every man everywhere a conscience that agrees with His moral law written in every man’s heart,

    see Romans 2:14-16 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

    It is more than evident there is enough evidence of God within every person so that anywhere every person knows God exists and that He is the creator of all things and also Paul says in the Romans one passage, that in creation itself God’s existence is revealed, see also Psalms 19:1-4.

    So as we see, I hope, every man is born in sin and guilty before God, every man everywhere they live in the world with any amount of knowledge of God is still a sinner and deserves God’s wrath and eternal judgment.

    This is obvious otherwise evangelism would be useless if God did not hold every single person accountable for their sinfulness. People need to be saved from their sin and eternal judgment and Jesus Christ is the only one that can save them. This is why we evangelize!

    If people could be justified of their sins and saved without hearing and responding to the Gospel call what purpose would there be to preach the Gospel?

    The book of Hebrews though tells us that the eternal punishment for those who willfully sin against the Gospel in unbelief will endure the worse eternal punishment there can be.

    Hebrews 10:26-30 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which He was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

    This passage confirms that when a person is presented with the Gospel for the forgiveness of sins and rejects Christ, as He is the only atonement for sin, there is no forgiveness possible but a fearful expectation of judgment and fiery wrath which will devour God’s enemies. Those who rejected the law of God would die without mercy, how much worse punishment will a person incur if they reject the only way for them to be saved, how much more punishment will one endure if in addition to rejecting God’s law they reject God’s mercy in Christ and actually trample underfoot the precious blood of Christ and insulted the Holy Spirit who offers God’s grace through the offer of the Gospel.

    So we see that the more knowledge and revelation of God, His law and His grace and forgiveness in the person of Christ and the rejection of all this knowledge in addition to the knowledge they already had, through conscience and creation places them under a much more severe judgment than those who did not have the completed revelation of God in the person of Christ and sinned without that knowledge.

    So, every person who dies in sin, in other words, without Christ and His life will be judged for their sins and to each will be given eternal punishment based on their sinfulness but the severity of each person’s eternal punishment is based on the amount of knowledge of God each person has.

    So, yes, the tribes’ man in the jungle that never heard the Gospel will receive a less severe eternal punishment than a person who had the ultimate and complete revelation of God in the person of Christ and who rejected Him and His grace and forgiveness, nevertheless, all will receive eternal punishment.

    To avoid eternal punishment a person’s name must have been written in the book of life, which book contains all the names of everyone who believed in Jesus Christ, see also

    Revelation 20:11-15 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

    Jesus confirmed the difference of the intensity of eternal punishment as being related to the amount of knowledge a person has, nevertheless we can see that even Jesus claims that they will all be appointed a portion with unbelievers, that is eternal punishment:

    Luke 12:46-48 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

    We now have seen the judgment that the unbelievers will undergo. Yet, we know, I hope, that for believers, there is no longer any condemnation, for those who are in Christ Jesus there is no longer eternal punishment, see what Romans 8:1 says explicitly.

    There are many, very many New Testament Scriptures that claim that believers in Christ will not undergo eternal judgment.

    I would like to list them all here, just so we understand how many there are since for many Christians there still is doubt about the security of their salvation. Here is a comprehensive list of them that prove that the believer will be saved forever and never perish, that a believer will not undergo eternal punishment.

    John 3:16; John 3:36; John 5:24; John 6:37-40; John 6:44-47; John 6:51; John 10:28-30;
    John 11:25-26; John 20:31; Romans 5:1-2; Romans 5:9-11; Romans 6:23; Romans 8:1; Romans 8:29-39; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10;1 John 5:11-13; 1 Peter 1:3-9; Revelation 20:14.

    As we see, there are plenty of passages that confirm the permanence of our salvation from eternal punishment. There are perhaps many more that embrace this concept and contest delineated with other words and terminology.

    This was, however, the list most prominent to show that believers in Jesus Christ will not undergo the second death, in other words, eternal punishment.

    Therefore, if a believer will not be judged on the base of his or her sins, if all of the believers’ sins, past, present, and future are no longer held against us and therefore eternal punishment is no longer a case, what will we be judged about. What is the tribunal, or judgment seat of Christ that the believers will have to undergo? For what will God judge believers? If not sin then what?

    Let me make something very clear, although believers are not eternally judged for their sins it does not mean that they do not have to endure the temporal and earthly consequences of their sinfulness. God forgives them but God will indeed discipline and correct His children and give them consequences here and now and there are some consequences for our sins as believers although not on the form of eternal punishment or damnation.

    That God punishes sin in the believers’ lives here on earth is very clear in Scripture. Beginning even in the Old Testament, where we see a very good example of this context in the life of King David.

    We have seen previously in our study that David endured some very serious consequences for his very serious and heinous sins. See 2 Samuel 12:9-15.

    We also have seen, for example, that when Christians do things that are or become sinful there are indeed earthly consequences, in the form of health issues and legal issues as well.

    Take for example as we had said before, smoking tobacco or anything else for that matter. Smoking is indeed a sin because we now know that it greatly harms our health and often even our finances. We know from Scripture that the believers’ bodies do not belong to themselves but they have been bought with the price of Christ’s life and blood, see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. God says that if we in some way knowingly and sinfully harm the body, whether our physical bodies or the body of Christ the church, God will destroy us, see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.

    Paul also explains in 1 Corinthians 11 about God’s very severe discipline on believers because of their continued rebellion and continued sinfulness.

    1 Corinthians 11:27-32 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

    What we see written here are some very serious consequences of believers’ sinfulness. Make no mistake, Paul is talking about Christians here and as we saw before these will not undergo eternal damnation.

    Yet, they will undergo very strict and serious discipline and as we see written if they are unwilling to leave their sinful behaviors God will punish them severely with physical and temporal consequences even to the point of physical death. The fact that many in the church today say that God does not judge believers is erroneous! God judges and punishes sin even in believers.

    As we said there is a very big difference and exception in how God judges and punishes believers. He does it only in the believers’ physical life and sphere. Even here we see Paul says when God judges us, verse, 32 we are chastened, punished by the Lord in such a way that we are not condemned with the world.

    This means we do not incur the same type of judgment the world, in other words, the unbelievers, incur.

    We must realize that the believer is saved and is born again in his spirit. We also know that our bodies are not born again, our bodies the word of God says, still contain the law of sin, see Romans 7:17-25.
    Our spiritual man, our spirit is born again our bodies are not yet redeemed.

    Our bodies will be ultimately redeemed at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, they will be redeemed at the resurrection of the believers and the believers who are living at that time will be also transformed as 1 Corinthians 15 explains.

    1 Corinthians 15:50-57 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed– 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    As we see here our bodies as even Romans 7 explains are the not redeemed part of us and the part of us in which sin is still alive. This is why we still sin and why we can still be prone to sin even after we are born again. This is also why we are continually exhorted not to sin and to bring our bodies under subjection of the word of God and His will. This is also why we are called to renew our mind, see Romans 12:1-2.

    Now when God judges us he does so in our flesh, not in our spirit this is also why Paul states this in this way:

    1 Corinthians 5:5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

    Even here there is an intimation of the fact that the destruction of the flesh is exactly what it sounds like it to be, so to be given into the consequences of carnality would cause physical destruction but the salvation of the spirit is understood.

    The very fact that even here Paul mentions the day of the Lord Jesus is the fact that the second coming of Christ indeed marks the resurrection of the believers and the transformation of the living believers. This means that even if God destroys a believer’s body He still saves his soul and will still redeem even their mortal body on that day.

    Nevertheless, we see that there are grievous physical consequences for continued sinfulness in the life of a believer.

    As we said before there may even be very serious legal consequences for certain types of sins in which a believer may still indulge.

    So yes, God does punish and correct and give consequences to believers when they sin. It is incorrect to insist in saying that God does not judge believers for their sins. He does indeed, it does not matter what terminology one wants to give it, although as we said the judgment is no longer eternal punishment God still holds us accountable for our sins now and in our flesh.

    Whether we call it judgment, punishment, chastisement, correction or discipline, it does not matter. All those adjectives are correct!

    For the believer, God’s primary reason to chastise and correct is indeed punitive but it’s for corrective and instructive reasons, not destructive ones. God, in reality, wants to use His correction not to destroy our flesh but to help us bring it into subjection to Him and His will. His purpose is to make us holy and righteous, but He does it through a process also called judgment and punishment.
    A passage in the book of Hebrews is more than clear on this subject.

    Hebrews 12:5-13 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.

    Clearly, as even Paul stated before in 1 Corinthians 11:32 he calls God’s chastisement, judgment. They are all synonyms, we can’t get hung up on the words, they are all valid terms.

    Our judgment, or discipline, or correction or chastisement is designed to make us turn to godliness and righteousness and holy living. However, at times our human obstinacy and willfulness can cause a person to persist in rebellion. In which case God’s physical discipline can become very hard, even to the point, as we have seen, to cause sickness and even physical death. We cannot fool around with God’s holy righteousness even if we are eternally forgiven.

    In the end, we know our physical bodies will die unless we are living when Jesus returns and even then our mortal bodies must be transformed. However, usually, we end up dying physically. Why are our physical bodies mortal? Why do we still die physically? Because sin still is present in our bodies and because we still sin in our bodies and as God’s word says:

    Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    The wages of sin is death! The gift of God is eternal life however there is an entire process as to how we receive the completion of our salvation. The first phase is, we receive spiritual life, our spirit from being dead becomes alive, and we receive spiritual eternal life. The second phase is we must continually work to bring our physical bodies, which have not yet received spiritual eternal life, to be into subjection to the will of God, this is called the process of sanctification, which includes spiritual growth and maturity. The third phase is our mortal bodies, mortal because of the sin that still indwells them and because of the sins we still commit in it, these bodies die. The explanation is clear and concise in the 1 Corinthians 15:45-57 passage.

    Our mortal bodies are corruptible and sinful flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. They must die to be recreated glorious, incorruptible and immortal!

    Nothing that contains sin can ever enter the presence of God not can it enter heaven.

    Having said all this I hope now we clearly understand why our bodies still die and that we still incur God’s punishment in our flesh, in our physical mortal bodies.

    Now, let’s return to the questions we asked before, what is the judgment seat of Christ and what is it for if the believer is eternally forgiven of all their sins?

    What is Christ going to judge us about? We have seen in Revelation 20 that God indeed will judge the living and the dead, however, it seems like the believer will not be judged at that same time, or at least not all believers. The believers already had taken part in the first resurrection. When did that occur? At Christ’s second coming, we have seen in Scripture that this is the case, see 1 Corinthians 15:50-55;
    1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.

    There are indeed two resurrections of the dead. The first resurrection is as we said at Jesus’ second coming, this one is the resurrection of all believers of all ages at His return. The fact that this is indeed called the first resurrection is found in the Scriptures and is not some erroneous doctrine as some say.

    Revelation 20:5-6 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

    Regarding this passage, we must also really see that it is impossible to make a symbolic case of the aforementioned thousand years. The thousand years in question must necessarily be literal, why? Because is the only sense that the thousand years can have, that’s why! First of all, it is also a matter of logic, a thousand symbolic years are illogical! Why? Because the resurrection is literal and physical and not symbolic.

    In his passages describing the resurrection of the dead in Christ, the resurrection is not symbolic, it is literal and consequently, since this is the same resurrection it must also be literal. The Kingdom of Christ is a literal thousand-year kingdom and the thousand years are a thousand literal years, they must be so also because we find that the disintegration of the heavens and the earth in which we live now is described in verse 11:

    Revelation 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

    This step is actually what Peter also says in:

    2 Peter 3:7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

    Peter says the heavens and the earth are preserved for the day of judgment and perdition of the wicked. This is a description of Revelation 11 and not Revelation 19.

    Many confuse the coming of Christ with the destruction of the world and the final judgment and this is the biggest mistake. Because by making this mistake we pass over Apocalypse 20. Those who interpret it thus are those that pass from Revelation 19 to 21 or better from Revelation 19 to 20:11. Doing so, however, they omit and ignore Revelation 20: 1-11.

    Some do it in good faith through biblical ignorance but others do it on purpose to push their erroneous doctrines.
    What’s the point in having the first resurrection anyway, and then what? Immediately after having the second one? Besides, if the thousand years are symbolic then even the resurrection must be symbolic, and what it is they only know, but they cannot explain it with Scripture because it does not exist. If they say that the resurrection in question is only a spiritual one and the thousand years is an indefinite and symbolic period, where and when was Satan chained? Even symbolically and spiritually this is not possible. Can we speculate that everything that happened from the Ascension of Jesus to today has happened only because of human wickedness without demonic intervention? I do not think it to be the case! In addition to this fact, when did the episode mentioned in Revelation 19 happen? It has never happened up to today and it cannot even be explained symbolically and therefore it is not even possible to reconcile the fact that Revelation 20 has already occurred when in fact even Chapter 19 has not been fulfilled to date.

    The fact is that without even going to look for Old Testamentary passages that confirm a literal reign of Christ on earth, it cannot in any way be interpreted symbolically or spiritually as those who support it say. It is not possible to reconcile all this, that is by Scripture, and to try to do it they must necessarily distort Scriptures to make them fit in some way. When it is necessary to do exegetical gymnastics to confirm a doctrine in most if not in all cases it is an erroneous interpretation.

    The entire Scripture, that is, the counsel of God supports and demonstrates a literal kingdom of Christ on earth.

    Also Peter in his sermon in Acts 3, in other words, confirms this fact which surely supports the doctrine of the Millennium of Christ on earth:

    Acts 3:19-21 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.

    This passage is very important to understand the concept of the literal one-thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. Although it does not spell out one thousand years it does give us an indication that we can trust the literal interpretation of the one-thousand-year reign on earth. The first thing we need to see is the reference Peter makes regarding something called the times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. Think about it for a moment. What are the times of refreshing and what is the presence of the Lord? The Holy Spirit already came in Acts 2, so that cannot be the incident Peter is referring to, so it cannot be a spiritual interpretation either. When would the Lord be physically present?

    Peter explains what this episode is referring to, it’s the Lord’s return. If and when Israel repents as a nation and accepts Jesus as Messiah, Israel will be saved as a nation and receive eternal life and all the new covenant promises will be fulfilled for them, including the promises made regarding a literal earthly Kingdom with Messiah as king, not only of Israel but the absolute king of all nations, with Israel in full dominion on earth, for, yes, one thousand years.

    Remember, according to the Old Testament promises made by God to Israel, Israel would have to one day reign over all the gentile nations and Jesus would be the King. Indeed this will occur in the future.

    For Israel, but for all the nations as well, this is indeed the times of refreshing which would come from the presence of the Lord, when Jesus Christ returns on earth as even Peter says.

    The One whom heaven must receive, in other words where Jesus is now and when He comes He will restore all things, all things even as the prophets of God had prophesied from the beginning. Isaiah 61 confirms this and gives the perfect timeline of all this, verses one and half of two describe the period in which God dispenses His grace through Jesus, through the Gospel, in fact, this verse and a half is indeed what Jesus preached in Luke 4:18-21, in fact in verse 21 Jesus says:

    Luke 4:21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

    He says this Scripture is fulfilled today! Yet He stops short of the rest of the passage and the second part of verse two and verse three of Isaiah 61 which state:

    Isaiah 61:2-3 And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, 3 To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

    Look at the timeline here, Jesus stated that the first one and a half verses are fulfilled in that day, subsequently, He stops short of mentioning that the day of God’s vengeance is fulfilled, why? Because that day has not yet come, That day is the day of Christ’s second coming and the timeline is perfect as until that day it is the year of the Lord’s favor and grace through the Gospel yet after that day God’s kingdom and Israel’s kingdom will be one. This here, by the way, is not a prophecy fulfilled for and by the church, this is a prophecy that makes a clear reference to Zechariah 12:10-11 and subsequent chapters which describe the day of vengeance of God and subsequent restoration of Israel. The rest of Isaiah 61 is a description of Christ’s earthly reign in Israel with Israel as the head of the Kingdom of God on earth. Isaiah 61:4-10.

    We must also remember the question the disciples asked Jesus shortly before His ascension and the answer He gave them:

    Acts 1:6-7 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.

    Notice the words used in the question the disciples ask, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

    The word used in restore and the word used in Acts 3:21 restitution is the same root word, restitution and restore are indeed the same type of word used in even in the original Greek translation. We see that there has to be a very close-knit correlation between the episode mentioned in Acts 1:6 and the episode mentioned by Peter in Acts 3:21.

    Jesus answers them very clearly with a yes but not yet answer. Notice, Jesus does not deny the future restoration of the kingdom to Israel, He simply states that they should not have to be concerned about the times and seasons God would indeed bring to pass in His own time and authority. Jesus did say yes the Kingdom to Israel would be restored not yet and they should not be concerned as to when this would occur, yet He tells them instead to go and await the coming of the Holy Spirit because God had another purpose and plan for them at that time.

    It is clear though that part of the restoration of all things is linked to the return of the Lord and the repentance and acceptance of Jesus as Messiah by Israel as a nation.

    So, why did we go through all this since we were talking about the first versus the second resurrection? Because it is important in establishing the proper timeline of eschatological events otherwise we get confused as to what this all means in biblical reality. We did this to confirm the validity of the one thousand year period also oftentimes mentioned as Millennium, that it is a real and literal event which confirms the literal and real event of the first resurrection and places it in the proper place and time.

    Therefore, we see from Scripture, that the dead believers in Christ will live again and this is called the first resurrection. The passage also says that over these the second death will not have power. The second death is eternal damnation as later mentioned in the same chapter, Revelation 20:11-15.

    We know however that every single believer has overcome, how? By and through Jesus Christ, see also Revelation 12:11.

    Every born again believer will not endure the second death so it is clear that no believer will be hurt by the second death, in other words, eternal damnation.

    There seems to be somewhat of a discrepancy about the interpretation regarding the first resurrection.

    In other words, is the first resurrection only the believers who escaped the reign of Antichrist as mentioned in Revelation 20:4-5?

    It would seem so, even because some Scriptures would seem to indicate it.
    We have seen Revelation 20:4-5, we also can see the correlation between Revelation 2:8-11 and Revelation 12:11. All these passages seem to indicate that the first resurrection is only for these believers, those who endured the persecution and martyrdom of Antichrist during the great tribulation preceding the Lord’s return.

    Does this then mean that all the other believers will only be resurrected on the very last day before the final judgment together with all the other dead? See Revelation 20:11-15.

    This could appear to be true if we interpret the resurrection only just taking this chapter and those three passages mentioned in consideration.

    For example, let’s look at the passage in Revelation 2:11, Jesus at the end of this passage says:

    He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”

    I want you to understand that Jesus makes this type of statement throughout all his letters to the seven churches listed in Revelation 2 and 3, at the end of such letters to each individual church.

    He says in every case He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

    The fact that Jesus uses the word churches in the plural form is very important because it seems to indicate He is saying this to all the churches to which He speaks. Jesus is therefore calling all of those churches to hear what the Spirit has to say to them and to overcome in the same way.

    As we always interpreted these passages, we find that in every local church these characteristics are found in all of these seven churches. Jesus calls every church, everywhere and in all ages to hear and to overcome all those situations He mentions in the seven letters in Revelation.

    So even studying this passage alone we see that we can easily interpret it to mean it applicable to all believers and not only to the Smyrna church or the persecuted church only. There are many, many generations of persecuted churches through out church history.
    So we also know as we often interpreted these passages in Revelation, it speaks of the literal church of Smyrna, it also speaks of the church throughout its history and regarding believers who go through these situations in every church throughout the ages. So we cannot apply this passage only to the church or Smyrna and not only to the church persecuted in the last days by Antichrist.

    Even the passage we find in Revelation 12:11, cannot be applied to a specific church in a specific era alone. Why? Because all believers of all ages have overcome the devil in the same way.

    We can apply these passages to the believers of all ages as well as the ones living during the reign of Antichrist in the last days.

    However, the word of God is not made up only of these passages and the resurrection of believers is indeed described also in other passages. So let’s see, when is it that the dead in Christ will live again?

    Will it be only the persecuted and martyred believers of the last days as Revelation 20:4-5 seems to indicate that will be resurrected in the first resurrection or will it be all the believers of all ages before Christ’s return?

    The clearest meaning is found in:

    1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

    This passage is ultra-clear, Paul says that he does not want us to be ignorant about all this, the believers who are alive, when? At the coming of the Lord and they will by no means have precedence on those who fell asleep, in other words, died in Christ.

    When do the dead in Christ, all of them, live again then? It is more than evident this occurs at the Lord’s coming, and that day precedes the day of the final judgment.

    Revelation 19 describes the return of the Lord and therefore that is the day Paul is referring to in which the dead in Christ will rise.

    Paul says: the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

    This is also the same description of the event described in Revelation 19 and also is a parallel passage to 1 Corinthians 15:50-55.

    In fact that it is indeed the same episode is more than clear by the almost identical description:

    1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

    1 Corinthians 15:51-52 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed– 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

    It’s without a doubt the same episode! Paul in the 1 Thessalonians 4 passage mentions the trumpet of God and he mentions also the same in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul says that at the trumpet sound, or the trumpet sound of God, the dead in Christ will be raised this is mentioned in both passages.

    In the book of Revelation, seven angels have seven trumpets.

    Revelation 8:2-3 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets

    Every trumpet mentioned there as we read on in Revelation when sounded unleash a series of events described throughout the book.

    The book of Revelation, by the way, is not all and always in chronological order; because of this we must properly divide and interpret this book. It is a very complex book to interpret and we must do so carefully.

    Nevertheless, the seven angels have seven trumpets and Christ’s return will occur at the sound of the last trumpet, when the seventh angel, who is an Archangel, from this, by the way, we can also determine that it is very likely that all seven angels may very well be all Archangels.

    In the Scriptures, we only know the names of two Archangels, Gabriel and Michael, however, we cannot be sure that there are not seven of them. It may very well be, we cannot speculate but it seems to be the case even because, in Jewish Old Testament era writings, we find that seven Archangels are mentioned.

    Jewish apocalyptic literature of the post exilic period describes seven archangels who stand in the presence of God: Suruel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Gabriel, Remiel, and Uriel (Tobit 12:15; 1 Enoch 20:1–7; 9:1; 40:9). Some scholars therefore speculate that these are the same angels who stand before God and blow the trumpets of God’s judgment (Rev. 8:2–9:15)

    (We cannot be dogmatic about these facts as the books in question are not canonical books)

    This could be confirmed though by what Revelation 8 says regarding the seven angels who sound the trumpets and Paul’s mention of an Archangel in the 1 Thessalonians 4 passage.

    However, there is another possible confirmation that these seven angels could be Archangels and the passage in question is:

    Luke 1:19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.

    As we see here it this a fairly clear correlation between what Gabriel says and what Revelation 8: 1 says where it says that the seven angels were those who stood before God, and we see that Gabriel is one of those of course.

    In any event, the seventh angel at least is an Archangel and it is at the sound of the last trumpet is when the dead in Christ, all of them will raise from the dead. As we see, it is evident that Paul mentions all believers will rise at this time not only the ones that were persecuted and martyred during the reign of Antichrist.
    The ones who undergo this destiny are indeed part of the believers who take part in the first resurrection but not the only ones.

    So who are the dead who will rise for the final day judgment and who have their names written in the book of life?

    We know they must be believers whose names are written in the book of life because the passage says that they will not undergo the second death, which as we said is a synonym of eternal damnation, see Revelation 20:11-14; Revelation 21:7.

    It is obvious at this point that the interpretation of Jesus Christ reigning on earth for 1000 years before the final judgment and the creation of a new heaven and a new earth is the proper interpretation and Christ’s reign on earth is a literal one-thousand-year reign and not a symbolic one. The believers in Christ who are born and live on earth and die during the one thousand reign of Christ are the ones whose names were also written in the book of life. These are the ones who will rise to stand before the final judgment.

    The first resurrection will occur at Jesus’ return and all the believers of all ages before His return will be raised then. However, there will be believers who will live during the period we call Millennium, Christ’s one thousand year literal reign on this earth.

    Why did we have to say all this regarding the judgment seat of Christ and the judgment of believers?

    Because believers, all of them will undergo a different type of judgment than the unbelievers, even in both instances, first resurrection or second one the judgment of God will be based on the faithfulness of believers and the type of works done during their lives. God will judge believers to determine what type and how many rewards they will receive if any.

    Rewards for being faithful and based on the type of works of a believer while they live in the world is the judgment we will undergo. Let me say one thing about this, as we said before many times, we will not be eternally judged for our sins, basically, our sins will not cause eternal damnation as they will in the lives of unbelievers.

    Yet, sinfulness in the life of a believer is also the equivalence of not being faithful to God. If God judges our faithfulness and our works then we must realize that in many cases our sinfulness as believers although forgiven and not causing eternal punishment or damnation will, however, cause losses of some kind, in other words, losses of rewards if our sinfulness involves specific issues that often can affect our spiritual life, service, and ministry if God called us as such. Therefore living in a carnal way will end up affecting our eternal rewards in a negative way, not our eternal salvation but eternal rewards yes.

    This very fact is clearly explained and stated by Paul in:

    1 Corinthians 3:10-17 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

    This passage expressly and clearly states what it is that we are talking about in our study, in other words, what can we expect when we face Christ’s tribunal, this is how believers will be judged by Christ. Let’s look at it and see what it says to us.

    First of all, let’s understand what Paul is saying here. Paul is using a metaphorical example of what the word sanctification means or better what it means to live a faithful Christian life and building up our life in Christ and even building up the church, the body of Christ. How a minister should live and work for the edification of the church. Paul, therefore, compares himself as a wise master builder, only by God’s grace by the way. Paul says he is one of the people called by Christ to be an Apostle and therefore to be one of the Apostles and prophets who laid down the foundation of the church, see:

    Ephesians 2:20-22 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

    This is a very important passage that mirrors the one in 1 Corinthians 3. As we see Paul as one of the Apostle and prophet is a master builder who had laid the foundation of the church. He calls himself a wise master builder by God’s grace, Paul was saved by grace and called into Apostleship by grace and worked by grace to do the will of God. He is a living example of what it means to be a builder, an edifier of the body of Christ.

    The fact that the Apostles and prophets are called the foundation of the Church and Jesus the cornerstone is very important. As we said several times during the course of our study of Romans the Apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church because the foundation of the church is the doctrines that Christ gave to them to pass onto the rest of of the body are indeed the only foundation upon which we must build the local churches as well as every single life as Christians.

    The basis upon which Paul speaks is not limited only to him and the Apostles, indeed that have, as master builders built the foundation of the church through doctrines and ministry, however, we as living stones must build up our Christian life within the body according to the gifts and abilities given us by God, in other words by His grace, just like Paul. The basis upon what Paul speaks about himself as a wise master builder is not spiritual pride or arrogance but it is basing his life and work on all of Jesus Christ’s doctrines and teachings and word. We are called to do the same by Jesus Himself:

    Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

    You see, according to each given call by God’s grace we are all to obey Jesus’ word and obviously the teachings that He gave to the Apostles and prophets and when doing so, Jesus Himself likens us to wise builders. So as you see no doubt Paul was calling himself a wise builder because he did build up his life and the foundation of the church by obeying and preaching and teaching Christ’s word.

    Paul says that as the wise master builder he laid the foundation of the church then he said and another one builds upon it. This is a description of all other ministers who build up the church on the foundation laid by Paul. Every one of us as Christians has gifts and some have ministries and offices and every one of us is called to build or edify, this is the same word, the church and each other according to the gifts, ministries, and offices God gave to each.

    This is exactly what Paul says to us in two specific passages important to this end, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4:11-16.

    In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul put it this way:

    1 Corinthians 12:4-7 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:

    All these, gifts, ministries and diversities of activities are all given for the building up, edification of the church.

    This echoes perfectly what Paul says also in:

    Ephesians 4:11-16 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ– 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

    This is what we should be busy doing as ministers and as believers. We should be growing in the unity of the faith and becoming useful for the building up of others and being a part of this process with whatever capacity and gifts God has bestowed upon us.

    Then Paul says:

    1 Corinthians 3:10-11 But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

    Paul now warns us, take heed means to be careful as to how one builds on that foundation.

    This can mean several things, first of all, it means that since the foundation, the teachings, the doctrines for the church have been laid down now when we build up the rest of the body it must be based only on that foundation, in other words on the doctrines, teaching of the Apostles, prophets and Jesus, well, they are all doctrines and teaching of Jesus, through His own words in the Gospels and through His word given and inspired by the Holy Spirit, see also John 16:12-15, which the Apostles and prophets gave us in the Scripture of the New Testament.

    Anything therefore that we do in the church, to edify the church and to grow in our own Christian life and how we build up or teach and train ourselves and our families must be done on the only basis of the word of God and nothing else.

    Pastors and ministers must only govern and teach and train based on the word of God only and nothing else. This is indeed the warning Paul gives here, we can only build on the teachings and doctrines laid out in Scripture and in no other carnal and human way, because the only foundation upon we can build on is Jesus and His Word, the entire word of God but especially and specifically here is meant the New Testament writings, see also Hebrews 1:1-2.

    Then Paul says: 1 Corinthians 3:12-14 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.

    A Christian, minister, pastor elder and even all believers must build themselves up and the church on Christ only with things that are of precious spiritual and eternal value and live a life in faithfulness to God. This is building with precious things, even Jesus said it this way:

    Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

    Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

    Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

    This is how Jesus teaches this subject but Paul says also that if we build our life in Christ in a carnal ad worldly way and put little effort into building our lives with things of spiritual value, or if ministers and pastors govern and build the local church in a more worldly and carnal way rather than by the word of God, in these cases then Paul calls carnal worldly things, hay, wood and stubble.

    Therefore if we faithfully live our life in Christ, by obeying the word of Christ and building the church in the way God truly desires, by building the church and their own life with things of spiritual and eternal value, in this case, it’s building with precious stones, silver, and gold. If a believer builds their life in Christ in a carnal, less faithful way and builds and governs the church with carnal and worldly methods then it is likened to building with hay, wood, and stubble. In other words things of very little value.
    So Paul compares spiritual, eternal things and faithfulness to God as building on Christ with precious things and things of no spiritual eternal value in other words with carnal and worldly value and therefore a life with less faithfulness to God as to building on Christ with hay wood and stubble.

    Paul then gives us the answer as to what the tribunal or judgment of Christ for believers is:

    1 Corinthians 3:13-15 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

    The works of each believer, each minister in the church will become clear, Paul says, the Day of Christ will declare it as it will be revealed by fire. The fire of Christ’s judgment will either burn up the hay, wood, and stubble, the worldly and carnal works will not withstand Christ’s judgment. The fire of Christ’s judgment, however, will not destroy the precious spiritual, eternal and faithful works. If a believer’s works withstand Christ’s evaluation and judgment these will receive a reward. If any ones’ works are judged and do not withstand the measure of Christ’s judgment they will suffer loss but will be saved eternally just the same. The loss one suffers is not getting a reward. We see that salvation is not a reward nor can it be as a reward is only given if a person deserves one for some work one has done.

    We are not and cannot be saved by works, in fact, there is a very important passage that explains this concept:

    Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

    This passage is telling regarding the issue we are studying. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ, it’s God’s gift, period!

    Let’s face it, grace is undeserved favor which extends faith to us as a gift to believe in Christ who, in the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation,
    Romans 1:16. and faith comes only by the hearing of the same, Romans 10:17. It’s interesting to note that Paul says about faith that it’s not of ourselves but God’s gift. That is exactly what this passage is saying to deny it is to intentionally want to mislead or have been deceived already. Scripture confirms this fact and no other, several passages confirm this, see Matthew 16:13-17; John 6:44; John 6:64-66; however, if there was only one passage that explains this concept perfectly and it is this one:

    Acts 13:48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

    Faith must be granted by God as a gift given by His own will upon whom He desires to have mercy, and again it is not of ourselves, it cannot be:

    Romans 9:14-16 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

    So as we see our salvation is granted by grace through faith in Christ but faith is a gift of God and not of ourselves, there are zero amount of works we can ever perform to earn salvation.

    Once again we see that the works we will be judged for by Jesus are not to reward us with salvation or to see if we could deserve it. We will be either rewarded or not for our works done as Christians, this we have seen in the previous passage we have been looking at, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.

    In light of this let’s go back to the context of our study, Paul goes on in Ephesians 2:10 saying that we are God’s workmanship, on other words God’s handiwork as we were born again of the Spirit and recreated in Christ Jesus, we were saved and regenerated and left on earth for a purpose and that purpose is to perform good works, which works God has created as well in advance so that we would walk in them.

    These good works are what is referred to as those works which Jesus will judge positively to grant us heavenly and eternal rewards. It is also important to notice in the Ephesian 2:8-10 passage that Paul mentions our salvation and faith as a gift from God and mentions also that we have been re-created and regenerated to serve God through the works we are called to perform and even these are something that God has created in advance for us to perform.

    Therefore on the basis of what these two passages are claiming, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 and Ephesians 2:8-10, we see that the works in question, the works for which we will receive rewards from God are indeed not even our works, but they are works that God has created and planned for us to walk in and perform.

    This will be the true basis on which Christ will judge us, not only that the works are the right ones but that they are practiced and carried out in the way God desires. It is one thing to practice them and another is to practice them as God wants.

    Many believe that just because they do things that are things that God wants them to do, that in effect they are doing the will of God. Surely it is part of what God wants but God does not only want us to do things that He wants but He wants us to do them as He wants and do them with the right motivations. The judgment of Christ of our works includes all these prerequisites, that is, the works that God wants us to do, as God wants them done and with the motivations that God wants us to have.

    Many people start doing what God wants but then they do them they do not do them as God wants and others also do it for reasons that God does not approve.

    A very relevant and extreme example of this is found in:

    Matthew 7: 21-23 Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven; but who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day: “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, and in your name cast out demons and made many powerful works in your name?” 23 And then I will declare to them: “I never knew you; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity”.

    Now let me specify the context of this passage. First of all, Jesus in most of this chapter is talking about people who are not true believers but who are even false prophets, see Matthew 7: 13-20.

    In this case, Jesus is referring to these things to people who are religious but not born again. The case is specific of false prophets but if we see what Jesus says in the context, even if it is predominantly addressed to the false prophets in this context, however, it is not limited to them only but to all people.

    For example, in verses 13 and 14 Jesus says:

    Matthew 7: 13-14 Enter through the narrow gate, because the door is wide and the way that leads to perdition is spacious, and many are the ones who enter through it. 14 How narrow the door is instead and the narrow way that leads to life! And few are those who find it!

    This is a warning to everyone. In verses 15 to 20 Jesus also warns about false prophets.

    However, in verse 21 Jesus says:

    Not everyone who says to me: “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven; but who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

    As we see, in verses 13 and 14 the warning is general, then from verse 15 to 20 there is a warning regarding false prophets, however, in verse 21 Jesus refers again to everyone in a general sense.

    The key here is, who does the will of my Father.

    Clearly, this is looking at another thing that we have already seen before and that at this point we must repeat. Jesus is not saying that a person can enter the kingdom of heaven by works. In fact we know that salvation cannot be earned. But we must reconcile what Jesus says with the rest of Scripture.

    To enter the kingdom of heaven Jesus says, we must do the will of God and this seems to indicate doing works, in fact the people who are mentioned in the following verses, seem to have done the will of God, as many interpret it to be and do it, in other words, by practicing works that seem to be works wanted by God.

    But as we see Jesus denies them and sends them into eternal perdition but tells them this:

    Many will say to me on that day: “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, and in your name cast out demons and made many powerful works in your name?” 23 And then I will declare to them: “I never knew you; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity”.

    Jesus tells them, I never knew you, and drives them away from him, calling them workers of iniquity.

    This here is the key, doing God’s will is not simply doing religious or spiritual works as many believe today, even if doing spiritual works is indeed God’s will.

    This is not a contradiction, these things are the will of God but only when they are preceded by something else, that is the will of God as Jesus clearly said it in:

    John 6: 28-29 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God: believe in him whom he has sent.”

    The only thing we can do is believe in the One whom God sent, that is Jesus. Because His works were done for the sake of our salvation and He has done them all for us.

    God’s will first of all is to believe in His Only Begotten Son Jesus. The false believers mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 7 were not even true believers, why? Because in the context Jesus affirms that they were false and therefore also their works are false and even though they believed they were serving and knew God, God, in other words, Jesus does not know them, which is the first prerequisite to be saved, see Romans 8: 29-30; Romans 9:11; Ephesians 1: 4-5; 1 Peter 1: 2.

    To receive faith to believe in the Gospel, in Jesus one must, therefore, be foreknown and predestined as we have seen many times before.

    So what Jesus said in Matthew 7:23 is that they were not even saved because they had never believed because they were not foreknown, therefore they were not doing God’s will in their works because they had not done God’s will to believe in the Lord Jesus, to begin with.

    So Jesus is saying that to do the works of God, those that God wants, one must first of all be born again, we must be those who have been foreknown and for this reason, predestined and therefore called to believe, see also Acts 13:48.

    The works we do therefore are not only and exclusively the works we must do even if they seem to be the right ones, in fact, these people mentioned in Matthew 7: 22-23 had done the right works but it was they who were not justified and for this reason, Jesus calls them workers of iniquity. Who is not justified for their sins through the work of redemption of Jesus Christ is not justified and therefore is not considered righteous and therefore is still a worker of iniquity notwithstanding how many works he performs.

    So this extreme example found in Matthew 7, even if it speaks of false believers or rather of people who did not believe in Jesus, in addition, shows us that not only doing works that God wants us to do is the will of God but it is doing them in obedience and faithfulness to Him, that is, how He instructs us to do them and with the right motivations.

    That God wants us to do things with the right motivations is often highlighted in the New Testament Scripture.

    Philippians 2: 3 doing nothing by rivalry or vainglory, but with humility, each of you esteeming others more than himself.

    Furthermore, we know that many, so-called ministers, pastors, etc. enter the ministry for profit and this is also a motivation that is not the will of God. Scripture shows us in several passages that God does not take pleasure in ministries and works done with this motivation even if the motivation for money is secondary.

    However, Scripture has a lot to say about this subject.

    1 Timothy 3:1-4 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;

    1 Timothy 3:8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money,

    1 Timothy 6:5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.

    Many have gotten into ministry in order to deceive God’s people and to get rich in the same way, by deception. The Scriptures also call this practice the doctrine of Balaam, today we call it prosperity gospel.

    2 Peter 2:15 They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;

    Jude 11 Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.

    Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.

    Let’s realize that, every minister, every spiritual gift to the church are indeed all gifts of God, see
    Ephesians 4:7-11, these minsters are indeed gifts as verse seven says, God’s gifts of His Spirit to the church, to men. The works they perform are also described in Ephesians 4:11-16. Also, Paul brings out this concept in 1Corinthians 12.

    The works in question, therefore, are spiritual. These are works to be done in and for the church, how we live, how we behave as Christians in all events these works will all be judged by Christ. Those works which pass the scrutiny of Christ’s judgment will be rewarded those who will pass. There could also be specific works done in and for the church that even though many would think are done the way they should be done in reality aren’t. The rewards will only be given for works done which are done faithfully and in obedience to God’s word.

    Any work that has elements of worldliness and carnality will not be rewarded. Remember that walking by the Spirit and being led by the Spirit is synonymous with walking in obedience and faithfulness to God’s word and its instructions.

    There are many pastors, elders, and churches today that adopt many worldly and carnal ways and add them to the biblical ones and that is a work that will not receive a reward. Many think they are doing God’s will when they do this but in reality, they are not. When pastors/elders for example use psychology instead of Scripture to counsel people, that’s using worldly values instead of spiritual and biblical ones. This type of work will not be rewarded as it is a carnal and worldly work and God will consider it wood, hay, and stubble.
    These types of works never really help believers in the long run however God’s word and God’s power will.

    Also, there are many, too many, churches governed by men with men’s ideologies and strategies and not simply governed faithfully by the commandments of God’s word. In many instances, there is just plain disobedience to God’s word while they govern mostly through human ways. Often people even do ministry in the same way, oftentimes you have to wonder what in the world they are doing, because what they practice is a far cry from what church and ministry is as described and commanded in God’s word.

    For example, the Bible says that only the Gospel is the power of God to save those who believe it, see Romans 1:16. However, the Bible also says that faith to believe in the Gospel itself comes by the Holy Spirit through the preached Gospel itself, see Romans 10:14-17 and the Gospel preached
    1 Corinthians 1:21. When we read the New Testamentary Scriptures we find nowhere written that the Apostles or the evangelists of those days used worldly entrapments to attract people to the church, they never performed theatrical or worldly productions to attract and invite people to church where later they preached the Gospel to see people get saved. They never did any of that! Yet today this is, in fact, the greatest way most churches try to attract people. I even have seen a church that has advertising on TV to attract people to attend their services. All these so-called strategies are not biblical, they are human and worldly and I am fairly sure that all the so-called results, even if they get true spiritual results from them will not be judged as works that will receive eternal rewards. I pretty much firmly believe that if pastors/evangelists/ministries and churches adopt humanistic pragmatic approaches to attract people in the church and to the Gospel they will not be rewarded as they think. I do not believe that is we use humanistic approaches to spiritual things we cannot be rewarded at all for the results.

    Let me repeat what the rewards will be based upon mostly, not so much visible results, although results perhaps are important to have, yet the number results are not as much what God wants rather than our faithfulness to His word.

    It is somewhat erroneous to think we can even obtain spiritual results by adopting a humanistic and worldly approach. Yet today this is the norm in the churches for the most part.

    It is somewhat erroneous to think we can even obtain spiritual results by adopting a humanistic and worldly approach. Yet today this is the norm in the churches for the most part.

    These erroneous strategies, for the most part, are due to the adoption of erroneous doctrines in the church. If the church believes the false Armenian doctrine rather than salvation by sovereign election they will fall into the trap of having to come up with all types of human gimmicks to attract and even try to convince and even more sadly entertain people into the Kingdom of God.

    The risk one incurs at times in the belief of sovereign election or predestination is to become too lazy in the evangelization process. This, however, happens only if the church in question is also misunderstanding the place and importance of evangelism. Evangelism is not to be seen as a strictly human or religious activity nor to be practiced because otherwise if we do not people will go to hell. That is the wrong way to teach or to encourage to evangelize. We do not evangelize because if we don-t otherwise people go to hell but we evangelize for two main reasons.

    The first reason is because it is commanded by God to the church and the second because it ought to be a privilege to be involved and partner in a supernatural spiritual work of God.

    In reality, God would not even need us to save people yet He chose the church to be the vehicle with which He would bring the Gospel, are you ready? To the elect! John 6:65

    We, therefore, do not preach the Gospel or evangelize because consequentially if we do not, people will not be saved. If we correctly understand the doctrine of sovereign election or predestination we will find out that many people, from all walks of life, from all nations, tongues, and tribes will be saved. The entire world, all nations and tongues, and tribes will be represented in heaven, John 3:16; Revelation 7:9, and that no one that God wants to have mercy upon will go to hell John 6:37-40; Romans 9:14-24. No one, no one who Jesus died for, no one whom the Father gave to Jesus to save, John 6:44-45; John 17:1-3, no one who was foreknown and predestined and whose name was written in the book of life from before the foundation of the world will go into eternal damnation Luke 10:20; Romans 8:29-39; Ephesians 1:4-6; Revelation 20:15.

    This must be understood clearly! Many pastors and even evangelists today place a burden on people’s consciences and hearts and minds by erroneously teaching them that they are responsible if people go into perdition. They place all the responsibility of people being damned on the lack of efforts in evangelism. They place urgency on the wrong issue.

    The only people responsible for who goes to hell for eternity are the ones who go there. It’s not God’s nor the church’s fault. We as human beings are all responsible for our sinfulness, for our incredulity or faithlessness. It’s not enough to try and come up with the excuse that since man is unable by himself to believe and repent, that this is sufficient to evade responsibility for sin and faithlessness.

    This is confirmed by Scripture in:

    Romans 9:14-19 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?”

    Here we clearly understand, if one wants to understand, that God is the sovereign over election and salvation. This is exactly the context of Romans 9. He has mercy on whom He wants and that is the reason and the only reason a person can and will believe in Him. Then Paul anticipates the most the two most common objections to the doctrine of sovereign election, the first one is that people assume that if this doctrine is true God is unrighteous or unjust. Paul takes care of that objection in verses 14 to 18. In verses 18 and 19 he also raises the next objection most people have to his first answer. People ask that if only God is the one by whom and through whom salvation is granted and obtained why does He still find fault then? If man incapable of himself to believe and be saved and turn from his or her sin why does God still hold a person responsible then? If no one can resist His will in one way or another why does God still hold people responsible? Legitimate question for those who still do not understand or accept the truth of God’s sovereign election in the salvation of people. Paul answers in a very different way than most people would expect. His main answer is that we as people do not have the right to question God as to what He does and how He does it. In reality, that should be sufficient but unfortunately for most, it is not. However, Paul answers in a parallel way as the passage in:

    Isaiah 45:9 “Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’?

    Same context and same language as Paul uses in:

    Romans 9:20-25 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

    Very clear language and very clear concept. If a person wants they can continue to object to how and what God does, yet the passage in Isaiah says to be very careful because it says:

    woe to those who strive with their maker.”

    It is indeed a dangerous thing to strive with God, even for believers. It does end up messing up a believer’s spiritual life ad placing oneself under God’s discipline and for that reason, a person may even lose their rewards, since this is what we are talking about in our study at this time. Certainly, it places a believer in a position of deception and believing false doctrines is dangerous to one’s spiritual walk.

    We needed to say all this though to make the point that it is erroneous to think and believe that a person goes into perdition if the church does not preach the Gospel and evangelizes. God will always have the people who will faithfully execute His will and even our disobedience cannot and will not have any final sway over who gets saved and who doesn’t, every person whom God wants to save and for whom Jesus died to redeem will be found and saved and all those who do not hear the Gospel or who hear and reject it will not be saved.

    Scripture is more than clear regarding this:

    John 6:37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

    John 6:40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

    John 6:44-45 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.

    John 6:63-65 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

    There would be much to be said about these passages but we cannot spend the time here and now, suffice to say that we can clearly see that God will indeed draw to Christ all whom He desires to draw, and all to whom it has been granted by the Father will go to Christ and will believe the Gospel when preached. Maybe not immediately, perhaps it will and it could take some time, nevertheless they will be drawn and will go to Christ and be saved. This is exactly why we evangelize and why we must not give up hope. Until a person is physically alive there can always be hope for their salvation.

    So we do not evangelize because otherwise if we di not people will not be saved but we do it because it is a commandment and also a great privilege that the church can be involved in God’s redemption plan, to bring salvation to the elect, not to all and each individual alive but those that the Father has given to Christ to save and for whom He died. Those we are looking for, John said it like this:

    John 11:49-52 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.

    John in this passage, understanding the doctrine that Jesus taught in John 6, already counts the elect as God’s children scattered in the world. These are the ones who God, through the church preaching the Gospel would later gather them into one body, the church.

    Even in later on Jesus said:

    John 17:1-3 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

    This is not applicable only and exclusively to the disciples in those days, but to all the elect of all ages everywhere, in fact other passages of Scripture confirm this as Paul himself says this:

    2 Timothy 2:10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

    You see, Paul is willing to endure all things done to him or all things he had to g through for the sake of the elect so that they may obtain the salvation in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

    It is clear and evident that it is for the sake of those whose names are written in the book of life that we must endure all things and press on with the call of the Gospel of grace. You see, as strange as it may sound the call of the Gospel is not for all and every single individual in the world and that if we do not get to all of them some who, as many claim, Christ died for will go into eternal damnation.

    We have seen though that this is not the case and it’s not possible! Every single person whose names were written in the book of life from before the foundation of the world will be saved, they are the elect, they are those whom Jesus died for, no one else.

    Therefore, no one will go to hell, no one will go into eternal perdition who Jesus died for and whom the Father gave to Him as delineated in what we read before in John 6 and 17.

    Evangelism is not commanded because otherwise if we don’t people will go to hell. It’s commanded because God want s to give us the privilege to be His collaborators in His work of redemption. It is commanded because God desires that we be the instruments through which the Holy Spirit through the Gospel brings the message of grace and salvation to the elect, who incidentally as we well know are all undeserving, corrupt sinners who would indeed otherwise go to hell. Jesus told His disciples, the Apostles that they would do the same works He did,

    John 14:12-14 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

    The works Jesus is talking about is not that they or the church later would go to the cross and die for the sins of the elect. That work, the work of redemption, belongs only to Christ and only He could do that for mankind. The works He speaks of are the work of ministry and the preaching and teaching of God’s word and the Gospel.

    God wanted His Apostles and the church to be His witness in the world, see Matthew 5:13-16; Acts 1:8.

    As I also said before during our study of Romans evangelism has an eschatological purpose and scope as well. It is designed to hasten the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the salvation of all Israel as a nation and their readmission into the New and Everlasting Covenant and the restoration of the kingdom and all the promises made to Israel by God. Besides the establishment of God’s earthly kingdom with Him as King, King not only of Israel and in Israel but of all the earth and for one thousand years on this earth and later forever in the new heavens and earth.

    Therefore, when Jesus taught us to pray our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, we are in essence praying for the return of Christ and God’s kingdom to come and be established on earth and in Israel. We are in essence praying for the Gospel to go forth in the world and for the church to accomplish and complete its task on earth, which is to bring the Gospel of grace to all the elect of the world so that Jesus and God’s kingdom may come and reign on the earth.

    This concept was necessary to mention in our study regarding eternal rewards, why you may ask? Because as we were saying evangelism is one of the works the church performs on earth but it will be rewarded only based on faithfulness to God’s instructions as to how we practice it.

    There are many wrong versions of evangelism especially the way it is practiced in today’s church.

    There is only one way we can faithfully practice evangelism and that is by it being preached by God called and equipped evangelists with the actual spiritual gift, ministry, and call.

    However, because we have seen that many in the church today erroneously teach that all and every believer is responsible to evangelize we have all kinds of people in the church doing what they are not called to do. We have seen that a lot of ministers erroneously teach that if every and all believers are not involved in personally evangelizing that many people will go into eternal damnation. We saw this is not true at all and that believers who are not called to evangelize are not held responsible by God to do so.

    We have also seen previously that every believer is indeed called to be involved and partake in the spreading of the Gospel but there is a big difference between being involved in supporting evangelism and preaching the Gospel.

    We cannot receive eternal rewards for doing things we are not called to do by God. I believe that there will be many disappointed believers when the time for rewards comes and to have their works judged.

    So basically Christ’s judgment will be of all the believers’ works, those done in the flesh or not in faithfulness to His call, His Word, and His will not be counted for rewards, only those done in faithfulness to His word, His call in each believer’s life will be eternally rewarded, as we have seen written clearly in 1 Corinthians 3:10-17.

    All of our lives ‘ works will be judged not only by the ones we practice in the church but all we do in our life, or better Jesus will judge not only what we have done but how and why. Our works, our methods, and our motives will be judged to see if they were all founded on the word of God and His will or just our understanding and will.

    Remember, we will not be judged for our sinfulness with eternal punishment, however, we have seen that if we live and persist in a continued state of rebellion and sinfulness, God will chasten us and even destroy our bodies, this is also what Paul says in:

    1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

    As we see this passage in the entire context in which it is found does not refer to eternal punishment but temporal and physical punishment. Besides, there can and will be the loss of rewards even as Paul mentions in the verses previous to these last two.

    It is erroneous to think that Christ will not judge us, or better our life works. He will ascertain our faithfulness and obedience to His word and commandments and to reward us based on the same.

    The amount and type of rewards we will receive in eternity will be based on such things.

    More faithfulness and obedience more rewards, less faithfulness and obedience less or even no rewards.

    If Christians live a predominantly carnal life they are at risk to receive no rewards at all, they, however, will be saved. We know this is true in base of what Paul said in:

    1 Corinthians 3:12-15 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire

    There are other examples and references to Christ’s judgment of the believers’ works.

    2 Corinthians 5:9-10 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well-pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

    Once again we cannot get confused here and misunderstand what Paul is saying. Let’s remember that the word of God does not contradict itself. We know as believers we have received eternal life and salvation from eternal wrath. So we must understand well what Paul is saying here.

    Paul is writing to believers in this letter so receiving what has done in the body according to what we have done whether good or bad is not speaking of salvation or eternal punishment. He is speaking in line with what he wrote previously to the same church, 1 Corinthians 3:10-17. It cannot mean anything else for believers.

    It is obvious that for unbelievers the punishment will be eternal and commensurate with the works done on their life, in this case, the works will be all judged as bad and not good.

    This concept is clear as delineated in:

    Revelation 20:11-15 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

    This is the Great White throne judgment and it will occur after the thousand-year kingdom rule of Christ on this earth and after the removal of the old heaven and the old earth. This is the final judgment of all humankind. It’s the so-called second resurrection, the Resurrection of all the dead minus the dead in Christ who have been risen in the first resurrection. These dead mentioned here are all the unbelievers of all the ages and the believers who lived and died during the Millennial Kingdom.

    The believers who lived and died during the Millennium are those mentioned here whose names are written in the book of life. So the fact that the judgment mentioned in Revelation 20 says that all the dead came to life and that all of them were judged according to their works does confirm that all people;e saved and unsaved will be in some way judged for their works, yet the results will be different for each category. The saved people are saved before they die therefore the judgment of their works does not have anything at all with salvation and damnation. That element is out of the mix at this point. Therefore only the works of believers will be judged not them. This judgment will only be for the allowance of rewards or the loss of them and not eternal salvation.

    The unrepentant sinners and unbelievers were already appointed for eternal damnation because they died in that condition as Jesus aptly put it in:

    John 3:18-21 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

    He who does not believe is condemned already Jesus says. Of course, we know that until a person lives there is still hope in God that they can believe even after they reject the Gospel at first. Sometimes it takes God’s time to bring salvation to a person. There are many reasons, there is an appointed time for all the elect to receive salvation. See for example Jesus’ brothers and mother for example. Scripture is clear in a few areas that they did not believe in Him at first but in time they also believed. They heard the word of Christ and yet they did not believe it for a period.

    Mark 3:21 But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”

    John 7:5 For even His brothers did not believe in Him.

    As we see his own family thought Jesus was out of His mind and they did not believe in Him as they should have.

    Anyway, this is to say that anyone may be chosen for salvation we just do not know who, God knows whom He has foreknown and chosen. Until a person is alive they have the potential to believe although we know that everyone does not.

    As we see written in Revelation 20:13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.

    The place called Hades is not, as we can clearly see, the place where unrepentant unbelievers will spend eternity, that would be hell, Gehenna, the lake of fire and that is mentioned in:

    Revelation 20:14-15 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

    There is a clear distinction between Hades and the lake of fire or as we know it as Gehenna. This is the place even Jesus mentioned several times:

    Mark 9:45-48 “And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched– 46 where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’ 47 “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire– 48 where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’

    See also: Matthew 5:22-30; Matthew 10:28; Matthew 23:15;

    Hades is also called the abode of the dead and it is the waiting area in which unrepentant sinners and unbelievers will await their final judgment time and after which they will be thrown into the lake of fire for all eternity.

    It is a place a torment where the souls of the wicked will stay until the white throne judgment but it’s not the final abode of the damned.

    Hades is a place which was made up of two areas, before Jesus’ death and resurrection this place contained the souls of all the dead before Christ. Both the just and the unjust were kept in Hades except that the area in which the just stayed was not a place of torment but a place of peace and beatitude. The area of Hades in which the unjust and the wicked stayed and will be until the White Throne judgment is indeed a place of torment nevertheless.

    We understand this to be true in the story Jesus tells in Luke 16 about Lazarus and the rich man.

    Luke 16:19-31

    In the story at one point Jesus says this:

    Luke 16:22-24 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’

    Abraham’s bosom and Hades are the places where the dead souls resided. Actually what is called Abraham’s bosom is the place where the souls of the believers of the Old Testament went to abide waiting for Christ to come and do His work of redemption and to open for them the doors of heaven to go into the presence of the Lord.

    A great gulf or chasm separated Lazarus from the rich man, who was being tormented in the flames of Hades.

    After the cross and the resurrection all the believers including the ones that were awaiting in Abraham’s bosom go to be directly in the presence of the Lord. Therefore, for believers to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, 2 Corinthians 5:8.

    Ephesians 4:8-10 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

    In one sense the passage we just read, seems to be the description of what Jesus did when he redeemed the elect He descended in the lower parts of the earth and ascended to heaven taking those who were held captive by sin and opened and lead the way for them to heaven from Abraham’s bosom to God’s presence. The same He did for every elect from the day He completed His redemptive work to His return, He opened the doors of heaven and set the captives free and led them into heaven.

    However, the wicked unrepentant unbelievers will remain in Hades, in the place of torment until the final judgment when they will be given their eternal verdict and punishment. They already know they are damned but the judgment of their wickedness will be left until that day described in Revelation 20.

    We did mention this next fact at least another time in our study that in spite of what many people think or believe, even many, many pastors teach and believers believe, it is not the devil who is in charge of the unbelievers in Hades and then later in the lake of fire.

    Jesus is the One who holds the keys to death and Hades. Satan will be in charge of nothing when he and his demonic angels will be judged. They all will be thrown in the lake of fire and all, Satan, demons and unrepentant sinners will be in torment based on the punishment they have accumulated, which will be meted by God.

    Jesus is in charge of death and Hades:

    Revelation 1:17-18 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. 18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

    Therefore, as we see written here, Jesus is the judge of the living and the dead, He is in charge of the dead and the living, He was, is and will be.

    New Testament Scriptures are clear and numerous that explain to us that Christ is the judge of all mankind.

    Acts 10:40-43 Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.

    Acts 17:30-31 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

    Romans 2:16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

    2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:

    Jesus will judge the living and the dead and He will judge the believers and the unbelievers. As we have seen the judgment is a different judgment. Believers will be judged for rewards or no rewards based on the faithfulness of their stewardship to all they have been entrusted, everything will be weighed and measured to the word of God, whether it is church government, ministry, work, family, relationships, finances. All our earthly works as believers will be judged before the judgment seat of Christ. Based on our faithfulness to God’s word and His will we will be appointed or not appointed heavenly and eternal rewards. We have seen that the rewards are not the same as salvation, which all believers will have because it’s not a reward.

    Therefore the judgment that Paul mentions herein:

    Romans 14:10-13 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.

    This judgment is not the same as the judgment unbelievers will endure. This judgment is the account we must give to God about our own life and works as we said. This is why we are not to be the judges of our brothers and sisters’ works.

    Now there is a difference when it comes to blatant sinful behavior and erroneous doctrines. In these cases, Scripture tells us, especially pastors-elders-teachers that we must confront people about these things. There is however a difference between pastors-elders-teachers doing it and believers doing it among themselves.

    When it comes to an act of sin that is personally committed against us we have a way and procedure to confront the brother or sister who sinned against us, we found this procedure written in:
    Matthew 18:15-20.

    It is not wrong to want to help other believers who are living in sin and rebellion to come out of that condition, however, it is not the job of believers to stand in judgment of them. We are called to help others wee their sinful and wrong ways but not to be their judges by, as we often do, comparing them to ourselves and standing as their judges in that case.

    James 5:19-20 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

    This passage is often used by a lot of believers to justify their rebukes toward the sins of other believers.

    However, although I believe it is Scriptural to want to help each other get back on the right track, there is a big difference between doing that and standing in judgment of others for their misdeeds and thinking we are better than them.

    The passage in James five follows this other passage in the same way:

    James 5:14-16 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

    First of all, we see that the greatest responsibilities to address sins in believers fall mostly on the pastors-elders-teachers. The responsibilities of the believer toward another are to be related to the ability to confess our sins one to another and to pray for one another not to beat someone over the head over their sins. Also, we have seen in Matthew 18:15-20 that believers have a very clear directive from the Lord Himself and that the final responsibility of all this falls on the elders of the church.

    The passage we read before in James 5:19-20 is not saying at all that believers have the responsibility to confront the sins of every other believer. Instead, it refers to a believer who is being deceived by false doctrines and because of them, they are straying from the truth of the Gospel.

    More drastically it is a passage that makes reference to a person abandoning the truth of Christ and in that specific context in the same way delineated in the book of Hebrews. This would be referred to apostasy from the truth of the person, Lordship, and work of Christ and not specifically regarding personal sinfulness.

    We find the same type of context regarding this in:

    1 John 5:16-17 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.

    This is a passage that has baffled many believers and even Biblical interpreters, especially those of the Roman Catholic religion, who insist that there are two types of sin, venial and mortal. There is only one mortal sin, that leads to death, unbelief. Every single sin committed in the body of the believer is forgiven and therefore it does not lead to spiritual death. The only sin that can lead to death is unbelief in Christ and the Gospel. This is known also in certain circumstances the sin of apostasy. Unbelief in the Gospel is mortal because the only way to salvation and God is through and by Him. Unbelief leaves a person in all of their sinfulness and therefore none of their other sins can be and will be forgiven. This is how bad it is to die without Christ.

    Jesus put it like this:

    John 8:24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

    John the Baptist said it this way:

    John 3:36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

    However, the difference between unbelief and apostasy is not great, it’s still a sin of unbelief, except that they are two versions of the same. Unbelief can be an immediate outright and permanent rejection of the Gospel and Christ, while apostasy is a falling away from the truth still from the standpoint of unbelief. In other words, a person can be very close to believing, even giving signs of probable belief but followed by a falling away from that very truth that can save them. In other words it’s people who try Jesus, in other words they are curious and even seemingly interested in Jesus and the Gospel but after a period for various reasons that abandon the truth and never go back to it. Apostasy is the main context of the epistle of Hebrews. This is exactly the reason why the book of Hebrews is so misunderstood and why the false doctrine of losing one’s salvation is so prevalent in the church today.

    A true believer cannot and will not lose their salvation, a born again person will not die, spiritually again. We have seen this in great length in our study of Romans and beyond. There is no need to once again labor this point here. Nevertheless apostasy is walking away from Christ forever after having experienced many of the outward signs and benefits of the Gospel, but never having experienced true belief in the Lord Jesus.

    We find many of these references in the New Testament:

    The very first mention of this is found in the parable of the sower when Jesus says this:

    Matthew 13:18-23 “Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. 20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 23 But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

    In this parable we see the Lord explaining the results of the preaching of the Gospel. In the very first case, the person outright does not believe in the Gospel and rejects it. This is plain old unbelief!

    However, the second case is slightly different, the person seems to be somewhat interested in the Gospel and begins to explore its benefits, however, the benefits are to that person are external and not internal. The person is not born-again, therefore even this person did not believe at all.

    The person was curious even interested to a degree for a while but in the end, they did not believe and the test and trial of their faith proved that they did not believe. Jesus says that these persons had no root and that their hearts were still hearts of stone and we have seen from Ezekiel 36:26 that the work of redemption and regeneration of the Holy Spirit and therefore belief, real belief in the Gospel indicated the removal of the heart of stone.

    In these persons the heart was still rocky that is exactly why there was no root in Christ.

    Jesus also said this by the way:

    Matthew 15:14 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.

    This is the same concept just said in another way.

    The third category in the parable of the sower is still similar to the second as they still seem interested and curious about the Gospel and Christ, seem to be accepted as well but they also fall away because of external circumstances, in this case, the things of the world and the worries of this life make them fall away.

    The fourth category is the true and real born again believers who bear the fruit of real faith in Christ.
    As we see these bear fruit and do not abandon Christ ever, they persevere to the end.

    So what we deduce from this parable is that unbelief and apostasy is the condition of the first three categories of people mentioned.

    Apostasy, therefore, is walking away, abandoning the truth of Christ and the Gospel and never going back to it, or better never believing it.

    When people seemingly believe their faith will be tested and proven to see if it is genuine and if it is not, meaning they did not believe, in these cases, persecutions, riches, cares, and anxieties of life will test these people and they will fail the test and walk away from the truth.

    This was the condition explained throughout the epistle to the Hebrews.

    Once again this is the reason why it seems that the book of Hebrews teaches that a person can lose their salvation once obtained. However, if we understand belief and unbelief properly we will see and understand that all the references in the book of Hebrews are warnings to people who were still in unbelief and who were contemplating leaving behind the only truth that can give salvation, Jesus Christ!

    The Jews especially, but not exclusively them, could get closer to the truth of the Gospel and salvation by grace through faith only and then walk away from it to go back to their dead religion of works.

    By the way, this does not only happen to Jews, but it also happens to all kinds of people, Jew and Gentile. In fact, let me ask some of us who have been Christians for a while, especially those who have been involved in ministry a lot; how many times we have seen people, even people we know personally, maybe even our own family members with whom perhaps we have shared the Gospel, invited to church, invited to some evangelistic event, and some of them may even have initiated a seemingly spiritual search and even a walk. Then after a while, they seemed interested and even became somewhat knowledgeable of spiritual things then suddenly they stopped everything and walked away and never, so far ever walked with the Lord again. In some cases, they have even become hostile to the Lord and the very things in which they once seemed interested.

    These people of whom we have even gotten so excited about their seemingly newfound faith, so we thought, only to be saddened and disappointed by their walking away, in reality, they did not ever truly believe. That is exactly why they walked away! They may have thought of making a real commitment even after having their curiosity so aroused by the Gospel, this is the equivalent of the second and third type of person mentioned in the parable of the sower.

    Even in the parable of the sower people seem to be joyfully accepting the Gospel and give signs of a possible conversion but then because of exterior circumstances, such as persecutions, chasing riches, the cares and anxieties of this world and this life make them abandon the truth and Christ.

    God does test faith for us to see if it’s genuine and if it is the faith endures and stands the test of fire.

    Peter said it this way about true born again, regenerated believers:

    1 Peter 1:1-9 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith–the salvation of your souls.

    Without getting in a deep expository interpretation of the passage, let’s look at some important points in this passage that explain and confirm what I was saying regarding true faith and its testing and perseverance.

    First of all the letter Peter writes is indeed addressed to believers only!

    To the elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.

    This is the evidence that he is speaking to the elect, chosen of God, sanctified by the Spirit of God and by the obedience and the blood of Christ. Peace and grace is for them and no other. Peter then proceeds to give glory and thanksgiving to God because it’s:

    according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

    This is the description of the new birth and God has done this to give us

    an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

    This salvation is incorruptible and undefiled and it does not fade away, in other words, the elect by the foreknowledge of God in sanctification of the Spirit through the obedience and the blood of Christ, through His abundant mercy has begotten us to a living certainty through the resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead, for us this salvation cannot be forfeited or lost, it does not fade away! It’s reserved in heaven for us, why? Because we are indeed kept by the power of God through faith for this salvation which will be revealed in its fullness when Jesus returns.

    The key to this section is when Peter says that our salvation cannot be lost because it is reserved and kept by the power of God through faith. Now to the faith in question, some erroneously interpret this to mean that it can be kept by the power of God only if we keep believing and they erroneously claim that if a person stops believing or loses their faith that God does not protect their salvation anymore and therefore they can lose their inheritance or salvation. This key passage instead means the contrary. God not only protects our salvation by His power, He does it by protecting our faith because the faith we receive is of supernatural origin and it is not just generated humanly.

    This is made evident by two passages that are connected even though many never see them connected. The first is the episode where Jesus tells Peter that Satan wants to sift him like wheat and Jesus says this:

    Luke 22: 31-32 The Lord said again: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when you have returned, confirm your brothers “.

    What we see written here is exactly what we are talking about. Jesus is the one who prays that Peter’s faith does not fail. Peter’s faith did not indeed fail. This is very important because it is God who guarded the faith of Peter and Peter knows that even his faith is not human and does not come from himself but God since Jesus told him this in:

    Matthew 16:13-17 Then Jesus, coming from the parts of Caesarea of Philippi, asked his disciples: “Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?” 14 And they said, “Some, John the Baptist, others Elijah, others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “And who do you say that I am?” 16 And Simon Peter answering said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon the son of Jonah, for neither flesh nor blood has revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

    Therefore Peter knows firsthand that the believers’ faith is supernatural and also protected by the power of God. Scripture confirms this because it was Jesus who prayed to protect Peter’s faith during the trial of his faith. This is because Jesus is the High Priest of believers and we know that the High Priest had the task of making expiation for the sins of the people of God and of praying for them before God.

    The Book of Hebrews, in fact, says this:

    Hebrews 7: 24-27 but He, because he dwells forever, has a priesthood that does not pass to anyone else, 25 so that he can also fully save those who through him approach God, always living to intercede for them. 26 For we needed such a high priest, who was holy, innocent, immaculate, separated from sinners and raised above the heavens, 27 who does not need every day, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices first for their sins and then for those of the people, for he did this once and for all, when He offered Himself.

    As we see here, it is the High Priesthood of Christ that makes Him a complete savior who can fully save those who through Him approach God. Salvation is therefore eternal as the High Priest Jesus is eternal, why? Because He lives forever to intercede for us. As he interceded for Peter, Jesus intercedes for us but now He does it forever. Therefore our faith cannot fail or be lost, it can falter like that of Peter did but it cannot be lost because the power of God in Christ and His constant intercession for us always protects it.

    That’s why Paul also wrote what he wrote in:

    Romans 8: 34-39 Who is he who condemns? Christ is he who died, and he is also risen; he is at the right hand of God, and also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will it be affliction, or distress, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we are put to death all day long; we have been reputed as sheep for slaughter. ” 37 But in all these things we are more than winners by virtue of him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come, nor heights nor depths, nor any other creature can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

    That all this is true is also confirmed by what Peter says in the following verses when he says:

    In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith–the salvation of your souls.

    First of all, a person cannot rejoice in uncertainty, where there is uncertainty there is doubt and where there is doubt there is at least weak faith and in some cases no faith. Peter says that our faith will be tried so that the genuineness of our faith which is more precious than gold that does perish, though tested by the fire of trials we undergo will be proven real. The comparison here to the gold that is precious but perishes because it is a perishable element when put through fire, fire can melt and even destroy gold. Yet the comparison here is that there is no amount of fiery trials that can destroy our faith which will be therefore proven real and proven real to the end.

    This proves exactly that a real believer has real faith because God supernaturally has given faith and supernaturally guards and protects our faith, why? Because our faith is necessary to be saved and it has to persevere to the end and it has to persevere through all kinds of trials.

    This is what we are talking about here, people who seemingly lose their faith never had real faith. Therefore they are not saved and therefore they cannot lose what they never had.

    This is why they walk away, this is why they become apostate because they never believed. There is an entire slew of Scriptures that prove this point, many!

    A very clear and important one is the following:

    1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

    Jesus warned about this condition, besides the parable of the sower, during His earthly ministry:

    Matthew 10:37-39 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

    Although salvation is free, yet God proves people to see when and if their motivations are sincere and real. Many even in Jesus’ days wanted to follow Him for all kinds of selfish reasons and God does not entrust Himself to people like that, see also John 2:23-25.

    These often are the ones that seem to want to follow Jesus but when placed before some difficult decisions to test whether or not their faith is genuine they abandon Christ.

    By the way, the test is not for God as He already knows who belongs to Him, He needs no confirmation to know who is His,

    2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

    Jesus also said the following:

    Luke 14:27-33 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it– 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

    As I said, salvation is free but Jesus always called people to count the cost of following Him so that people would have a clear knowledge of the reasons and motives one should have before they make a decision to follow Christ and as we are saying in this case when things do not go as expected or wanted then they fall away. However, let me repeat it, if and when a person falls away from Christ, this is called apostasy when the condition remains permanent to the end of one’s life and it means that they have truly never believed and not that they did and then stopped.

    Jesus makes this concept very clear in:

    John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

    John 6:39-40 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

    John 6:64-66 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

    These passages are crystal clear, we cannot misinterpret them, only if we wanted to we could and unfortunately many do.

    In an honest appraisal to the entire counsel of God in this context, there is no other explanation.

    Jesus states no one can go to Him unless the Father draws the person and He will raise that person on the last day. This does not give any room for falling away or even going to Him to obtain salvation apart from God working it actively in some person’s life. It is God’s will that anyone that goes to Jesus will not be lost but will be raised on the last day.

    The passage that follows all this is John 6:64-66 is clear as well, there were many so-called disciples, followers of Christ who did not believe in Him and Jesus states that in a declaration, then He drops the bombshell when He says that no one can believe unless it is granted to them by the Father.

    Believing and going to Christ is synonymous. One cannot go to Christ unless the Father draws them and cannot go to Him if they do not believe in Him. Therefore one cannot believe unless it is not granted them by the Father.

    Faith is a gift of God’s grace: Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

    Paul also states that not all people have faith:

    2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.

    Paul states that people who do not have faith are unreasonable and wicked. If we have been Christians for a while we know that to be true!

    We also have studied what the sin that leads to death is. It’s unbelief and in the context of churchgoers apostasy. Apostasy is falling away from the truth of the Gospel and Jesus Christ after being exposed to it and having pondered it and not believing in Him until death.

    So now after we have gone down this rabbit trail to better understand some issues brought up in Paul’s writing, we can state that we should not judge our brothers and sisters regarding issues that are not sinful, Paul is clear on this. Anything we do or do not do for the Lord as described in this chapter, the celebration of days, holidays, foods we eat or don’t eat, drinks we drink or don’t drink and so on, as long as we do not do anything that is inherently sinful, should not be judged and should not become a point of contention in the body of Christ.

    Paul also said that we will give an account to Christ for our behavior and we will all be judged for our lives before Jesus’ judgment seat. We have also studied that this judgment is not the same type of judgment that the unbelievers will undergo. We can certainly help our brothers and sisters and we should help them walk in righteousness and turn from sinfulness but even in that situation we have seen that the Lord has guidelines as to how we should do this and He does give the greater responsibilities to do this to the elders of the church rather than to any other believer.

    The proper procedure to confront sin in others is found in Matthew 18. This also we have seen is more emphasized in the case of a sin that is committed against us. I believe that if we have a good relationship with other believers and the right motivation we could confront other believers if we see them living in a sinful condition or situation. However, the best thing to do in those cases would be to notify the pastors of the church and let them deal with the problem.

    We also have studied that Jesus is the judge of the believers for their life, whether faithful and spiritual or unfaithful and carnal, this judgment is for the giving or not giving rewards. However, we have also seen that Jesus is and will be the ultimate judge of all the living and the dead and also the ultimate judge of Satan and all his demonic angels.

    The Scripture here in Romans says:

    Romans 14:11 For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.”

    This quotation that Paul uses here comes from Isaiah 45:22-25 and it is reiterated again by Paul in:

    Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him t

    he name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    As we see every created being will bow and confess before Jesus that He is Lord, even Satan. Paul in fact states of all those in heaven and on earth and under the earth. This is all and every creature!
    See also Revelation 5:13-14.

    The interesting thing is that as we believers are a part of God’s redemptive work here on earth by being the preachers and propagators of the Gospel in the world through the church, we also will have an active part in God’s judgment. Look at what Paul tells the Corinthian church:

    1 Corinthians 6:1-3 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels?

    Nevertheless, we will all have to give an account of our life and works to Christ. To Him we will stand or fall, so because of all this, we must not judge our brothers and sisters harshly or unjustly or outside the measure of God’s word and the perfection of the person of Christ.

    In fact in this Romans chapter 14, Paul is indeed speaking of this very thing, we cannot judge someone regarding things that God’s word does not consider sinful. Not only this but Paul also adds this:

    Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.

    Once again, we qualify that Paul is stating that we should not judge one another anymore but he means it, as we said, regarding things that are not inherently sinful and prohibited by God’s word.

    We as believers, in fact, are indeed called to judge things but to do so in a very distinct way: Let’s give a look as to how we ought to judge, when and what.

    Here Paul is very specific as to what he does not want us to judge each other about. Yet, in other letters, he wrote he states that we must make judgments.

    Forst of all the Lord Jesus gave us the first guidelines about if and how we can judge. We did touch on this before but let’s do it again.

    The first way we ought to judge is without hypocrisy and in a just and righteous way as well as telling us we must use a certain measure to judge and when we do.

    Therefore, when Jesus says “ judge not” as many, especially unbelievers accuse Christians when we do make judgments it is misunderstood by them what this truly means. Even a lot of believers erroneously believe that Christians should not judge. However, this is not what Jesus means when He says not to judge.

    Luke 6:37-42 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” 39 And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. 41 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

    Jesus in the Sermon of the Mount is speaking about a righteousness that people ought to have that is beyond something a person can obtain through the works of the Law.

    Matthew 5:17-20 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

    Jesus states that He had not come to destroy the Law and prophets rather fulfill them. He also makes a statement that people’s righteousness must exceed the one the scribes and Pharisees practice by no means can anyone enter into the kingdom of heaven.

    Jesus, therefore, fulfilled the entire law and the prophets so that whoever believes in Him would obtain the righteousness necessary to enter into the kingdom of heaven. In other words, the scribe and Pharisees from the requirements of the Law itself thought they were perfectly righteous before God.

    That this is so is confirmed by Paul himself when he writes to the church of Philippi and he says this:

    Philippians 3:4-6 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

    Paul says that even when he was a Pharisee that he considered himself righteous with the righteousness of the law.

    As we see, therefore, when Jesus said what He said in the Sermon on the Mount, to the common people He says that they had to have a righteousness that was superior to the one that the scribes and Pharisees thought they had obtained by the works of the Law.

    For the Jewish common person, this was a real problematic statement as they all thought that no one could be as righteous as the scribes and Pharisees. They looked up to their religious leaders as examples of unobtainable righteousness. They considered them as the epitome of holiness and righteousness.

    We massively see the same problem today in the Roman Catholic religion. The common believer sees the priests, bishops, cardinals and the Pope especially as the example of righteousness and holiness that the common believer cannot obtain. Sometimes this is also the belief in some other Christian denominations and churches. In reality, none of these opinions are true because all believers, if they are true believers, we, are all justified and made just not for our works of righteousness nor obedience to the word and commandments of God. We are justified and therefore just before God only through the righteousness and the works of Christ, His life, His death, and His resurrection and also His ministry as a high priest before God for us.

    However, this is how the scribes and Pharisees were revered and considered, as if they were more righteous than the common person or so they thought.

    Jesus, therefore, acknowledged the people’s view of the scribes and Pharisees and said, first of all, that He is the One that came to fulfill the law and what the prophets said about Him, but then He takes away from the people all hope of ever being considered righteous by the works of their religion when He annuls the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees as a way to be righteous enough to have eternal life and be right before God.

    It is in this very context that Jesus speaks about judging. It is in this context that Jesus says not to be hypocritical in our judgment of others. He does not say not to ever, ever judge. He says to do it in the proper way and for the right reasons. We ought to want to help others to escape their sinfulness but at the same time, we must deal with ours. We must not judge our brothers and sisters for small matters even sins if we do not dispose of the big sins and issues in our life or at least be in the process of doing it. The motivation to help others escape their sinful behavior should be love for God and them and not to make ourselves feel better about our sinfulness by focusing on others’ sins.

    Jesus also said that with the measure we use in our judgment and forgiveness it will also be measured to us. This is a most simplified explanation means that the measure of our judgment ought not to be our self-righteousness, it ought nor be ourselves, instead, it ought to be the instruction of God’s word regarding these issues.

    We need to use God’s word and Christ’s life and righteousness as well as God’s grace as our measuring stick when it comes to our judgment. This is the meaning in a nutshell. We are to judge in this way, with the grace and mercy we have obtained we also must measure others. We have all been saved by God’s grace through Jesus’ work of redemption.

    His obedience and His death and resurrection are indeed our righteousness, it is His not ours that counts for us all. So we cannot judge harshly because we have not been and will not be judged by God for our sins. We must be gracious and loving and have a motivation of love, the same love God had and has for us, we must extend to others.

    James said it this way:

    James 2:12-13 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

    If our final resolution is not to extend mercy and grace and our motivation is not loving for God and others that is a very dangerous situation. It may even mean that a person has not even received God’s mercy and or that they are misunderstanding it and not practicing it toward others thinking to be better than others while it is only God’s grace and mercy in Christ that makes us righteous, so we are not better than others in that respect.

    As we said before, we will stand or fall before the judgment seat of Christ for how faithfully or unfaithfully we have lived our Christian walk. We need not judge others in a final way because we need to understand that if we are indeed true believers we all have different levels of spiritual growth and maturity for various reasons, nevertheless we do not judge the outcome of another believer’s life because God has promised this to all His children:

    Philippians 1:6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

    Also in the letter to the Philippians later on Paul says this:

    Philippians 3:12-16 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

    By the way, this passage does not refer to a believer’s salvation rather their sanctification or their spiritual maturity. Paul is not saying that he has not yet obtained salvation, rather he says he is not yet perfected or rather completed in Christ-likeness. He says that he presses on to lay hold of that maturity because that is why God had laid hold of him. God had saved him and us, to make us conform to the image of Christ, here on earth to the degree we allow ourselves to cooperate with God in doing so and in eternity as God will do it Himself in us in spite of our shortcomings in this life.
    See also Romans 8:28-30; 1Thessalonians 5: 23-24.

    Paul goes on saying that he always forgets what he left behind, not only the things he mentions previously in the chapter, Philippians 3:7-10, but he forgets what is behind also means that he, and we cannot get stuck in the mire of our shortcomings and even our sins. Yes. We must stop sinning as now we have the power on Christ to do so and live to God, yet when we do we cannot allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by discouragement, depression, and inadequacy because of our failures and sins.
    We must confess our sins knowing that He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:1-2.

    We must remember that His faithfulness is great and His mercies are new every morning, Lamentations 3:22-23. We know that we are not to take for granted God’s grace to continue to sin Romans 6:1-2, but we cannot allow our weaknesses in the flesh to derail us in God’s purposes and get stuck in self-pity and self-condemnation. That is what the devil wants us to do to make us ineffective in our Christian life.

    Self-condemnation and discouragement because of our shortcomings are some of the greatest neutralizing agents the devil cherishes to make us ineffective, besides Biblical ignorance which feeds these problems.

    As we see the motivating factor of judging in the church is to help other believers live in a holy manner and to reject sinfulness in their life and the entire body.

    The pastor/elder in the church has a very distinct job besides teaching and nourishing the flock, on of the jobs of a shepherd is to protect the sheep from the wild beasts and all dangers from without and also from the curious and often self-destructive behavior of the sheep themselves. This is exactly why the word of God describes God’s children also as sheep. It’s the perfect description of the way believers are.

    Sheep can be stubborn animals and even rebellious to the shepherd. Therefore one of the jobs of a shepherd in the church is to protect the sheep from dangers without and within and sin is one of those dangers, it’s a detriment and a contagious disease that can easily spread within the entire church if it’s not dealt with promptly.

    So we are to deal with, confront and judge sin in the life of the believer and the church but we are not to judge harshly a believer rather help them overcome the sin in their life.

    This is also why Paul is so adamant to state these things in this chapter. We are to be careful how we judge and we definitely ought not to judge our brothers and sisters for things that are not sinful.

    However, in the context of judgment, we must see that the believer ought to definitely judge and make judgments. As we said before we are not only allowed to judge but we are exhorted to judge in the proper way and for the proper manner.

    Sin, good versus evil, carnal and worldly things must be judged and discerned and dealt with accordingly. Must be judged!

    The New Testament Scriptures clearly state that we as believers must judge all things properly.

    1 Corinthians 2:12-16 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

    As we see here unsaved people do not receive the things of the Spirit as they are foolishness to him nor can they know them because they are spiritually discerned.
    Therefore the unsaved person does not want to receive spiritual things because they cannot understand spiritual things because they are spiritually discerned. Without the Holy Spirit in a person’s life a person cannot receive or understand the things of God and they consider them foolishness.

    However this passage claims that:

    we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

    We are able to comprehend and know the things God has given us and spoken to us because the Holy Spirit teaches us these things through spiritual comparisons. These comparisons are indeed judgments.

    In fact Paul then states:

    But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

    Therefore because we have the Spirit of God in us and because He also teaches us through teachers in the church, that is what Paul said earlier when he said::

    These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

    The Holy Spirit works in us through our own study of God’s word and without through the proper teachings of God’s word done by teachers in the church.

    Therefore we are to make judgments, as Paul says and we must spiritually judge all things, discerning spiritual truths through the measure and the knowledge of God’s word and rejecting things that are not spiritual and that are carnal and worldly.

    How can we reject carnal, sinful, worldly things and false doctrines if we do not exercise spiritual judgment and discernment? We cannot!

    Many, too many Christians for various reasons do not make the right judgments, they do not judge all things measuring them with God’s word, they do not develop spiritual discernment through God’s word, see Hebrews 5:12-14. This is the reason why too many Christians live in a carnal and often even sinful behavior and why they lack real spiritual discernment.

    Paul also says that believers have the mind of Christ. He had it and developed it. Many Christians although they have the potential to have the mind of Christ, unfortunately, do not develop it. Why? Because they do not renew it as Romans 12:2 exhorts us to do.

    The Romans 12:2 verse tells us how believers grow in Christ-likeness and how they become mature in the knowledge of God and His perfect will.

    Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

    This is also called the process of sanctification we ought to be always in the process of developing.

    This is how we achieve the mind of Christ, this is how we are not conformed to this world, this is how we are transformed in the image of Christ and how we achieve the mind of Christ and this is how we get to know, accept God’s will and determine that it is perfect and good.

    This happens when and only when we renew our mind by the work of the Spirit through the knowledge and, yes the judgments and spiritual discernment we can only gain through God’s word and learning to know God, how He is and how He thinks.

    Therefore the judgment Paul speaks about and even Jesus speaks about can be legitimately practiced by believers, in fact, Christians have to judge all things in the proper way and for the right motive.

    Concluding the 1 Corinthians 2 passage Paul says a very interesting thing, he says:

    1 Corinthians 2:15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.

    When an unbeliever tells us we cannot judge them it’s not necessarily true. It is true we cannot judge a person in a final way, in other words, we cannot judge a person’s final eternal destination in a certain way. However, we can make judgments based on what God’s word says. In other words, we can certainly tell people that they will incur God’s wrath if they do not believe in Jesus as Lord and confess Him as such and not believe that God raised Him from the dead and repent of their sins.

    This is the right judgment and it’s done with the measure of the truth of God’s word. So we can indeed pass judgments when we judge with God’s judgments. God has passed judgments in His word and if we pass the same judgments, in reality, it is not us who judge but God.

    In conclusion, this is exactly what it means when Jesus made these next declarations to His disciples:

    John 20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

    Matthew 18:18 Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

    These two passages are indeed speaking of declaring judgments with the authority of Christ. We can indeed judge people based on their belief or unbelief.

    This is exactly what Jesus is saying in John 20:23 and also in Matthew 18:18. In fact, in Matthew 18 Jesus also says:

    Matthew 18:19-20 Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

    These passages in Matthew 18 have absolutely nothing to do with binding spirits, sins or any other thing as many in the church believe and teach. We cannot bind Satan or demons or sins or sicknesses. Nor can we loose things form heaven.

    Matthew 18:18-20 passage is in the context of church discipline and authority in, judging a believer’s behavior and passing a sentence of church discipline on an unrepentant believer. This passage speaks about the ecclesiastical authority in passing judgments according to God’s words and instructions.

    It means that we can bind people to the discipline of God because of their rebellion and unrepentant sinfulness and bind them to the divine consequences of their actions and the placing of these believers in a position of being removed from the fellowship. We can also agree in the elder council to loose a person from the same things when they repent and seek forgiveness and readmission to the fellowship. So what we decide on earth in and with the authority of Christ in the church God will either bind or loosen in heaven. The remainder of the passage, by the way, is also in the same context and in reality, it does not mean as many think and cite, that this simply is referred to the presence of the church when two believers or three are present. This passage speaks of the local church body in its complete form, with pastor/elders that rule and govern the body and with all its parts in order.

    What Jesus is saying is that to have a local church governing body we need at least one pastor/elder and other two witnesses, as stated in Jesus’ passage of Matthew 18 to pass a judgment and discipline a rebellious and sinful believer. Two or three must agree that the person sinned and rebelled and does not want to repent as Jesus explained in the passage. That is the sequence, first one on one, then bring another or two more witnesses and then if there is no repentance bring the accusation and the accused before the church authority. So Jesus is speaking about when two or three witnesses are gathered in this context and all agree on the situation then the church can bind a believer in discipline or loosen them from it, also it means that this is done in Christ’s present authority when there are two or three agreeing witnesses and asking God to do what He wills as described in His word.

    Also, the passage in John 20 signifies that the church can pass judgments regarding the belief and unbelief of a person regarding the person of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. In other words, only God indeed has the power and authority to forgive anyone’s sins, not the church or any believer. Yet, Jesus here is saying that if a person rejects Christ and the Gospel in unbelief then the church elders have the authority to retain the sins of that person, in other words, that person is still in its sins ad they are not and will not be forgiven by God. If the person believes in Jesus Christ and the Gospel then that person’s sins are indeed forgiven, by God, yet the church must also retain that person forgiven. The Apostles, the elders of the church, do not have authority within them to retain or forgive sins as the Catholic religion claims. Here we are talking about the sins a person commits still outside of Christ not in Christ. It signifies as we said, in the process of preaching the Gospel or calling people to believe in Jesus Christ for the remissions of sins, if a person does not believe we can rightly retain that person under sin and still under God’s wrath. If the person believes then we can retain that person’s sins forgiven because that is what God says that happens when a person believes and repents of their sins.

    Therefore as we clearly see we can certainly pass judgments of all kinds as long as we do so by and through the measure of God’s word and His instructions.

    Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 2:15 that the spiritual man is not judged by anyone.

    That falls perfectly in line with what Paul is saying also here in Romans 14 regarding prohibited judgments of other believer and also in the context of the 1 Corinthians 2 passage the born again believer is not judged, rather cannot be judged by unbelievers at all. Why?

    Because believers must be judged with a spiritual and right judgment and an unbeliever, as Paul says, cannot understand the things of the Spirit because they are foolishness to him, because they must be spiritually discerned.

    Even Jesus told Nicodemus that if a person is not born again they cannot see nor enter into the Kingdom of God. Not seeing God’s Kingdom also means not being able to discern and understand the Kingdom of God and understand anything that concerns spiritual matters. See also John 3:3-6.

    Besides, the believer cannot be judged by anyone else because the believer has been forgiven of all sinfulness, the believer is not, cannot and will not be condemned as the unbeliever will be.

    Paul says it like this:

    Romans 8:31-35 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

    No one can accuse, condemn and therefore judge believers because God is for us, therefore, no one can be against us, Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? The correct answer is no one because it is God Himself that justifies us!

    Who can condemn the believer? No one! Why? Because Christ died for us and risen from the dead and is our High Priest before the Father on our behalf. Romans 4:23-25; Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 7:24-27.

    The believers cannot be judged because they just cannot be judged period. If God won’t judge us like He will judge the world, how can the unbelievers judge the believers? They can’t!

    As Paul even says here in Romans 14, we cannot even judge each other regarding things that are not sinful, because we all have to give an account to our lives to God.

    Now let’s recap this brief study of judgment:

    The spiritual man judges all things spiritually, not with carnal and human judgment. The believer uses the measuring rod of God’s word to make right and just judgments. When we judge with God’s judgments we cannot go wrong. This is why it is imperative that we know God’s word very well otherwise we will make the wrong kinds of judgments.

    This is exactly why we are studying the subject of judgment so that we know exactly how we are to judge in the right way and we understand the topic of judgment well because if and when we do not we end up making many, many even serious detrimental errors.

    We studied the judgment of the unbelievers is different than the judgment of believers.

    The judgment of believers is before the judgment seat of Christ and we understood, hopefully, that this is a judgment for rewards and not for punishment and eternal damnation. We studied the ecclesiastical judgment or tribunal for the discipline of believers and how that must be practiced. We studied how the believer can and must judge and how the believer cannot and should not judge.

    Therefore Paul says in this verse Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.

    Let us not judge one another anymore, meaning judging each other regarding the things he already mentioned in this chapter. Then exhorts us to resolve this next issue, in other words not to put a stumbling block or cause to fall in our brother’s way.

    This is a very important exhortation for us in the church.

    We should in every case never, ever do anything at all to cause our brothers and sisters to fall in other words to sin.

    We should avoid all behavior that can cause our brothers and sisters to fall into sin.

    In verses 19-21 Paul further expands this subject, however, we also must elaborate on what Paul is saying to us.

    First of all, we must know that we are indeed our brother’s and sister’s keepers. We are called to love one another as Christ loved us. This is a great love and sacrificial love.

    This is a love that in most cases most believers are not practicing. I do not want to enter into an in-depth study on the type of love we ought to practice in the church, yet I feel that there is a great need to entertain a small study about it right here and now.

    We have mentioned it even before right here in this study of Romans 14, in fact in the previous few verses, that the motivation of our singling out each others’ sins is not for judgment but for love. Love for God, love for our brothers and sister and love for the entire body of Christ.

    When God disciplines and corrects us, yes, even punishes us in the flesh for our sinfulness, He does not do it to destroy us, He does it out of love for us, to bring us back to Himself and His ways. He does this as a loving Father who disciplines His children that He loves, see Hebrews 12:5-13.

    The same should be done with each other and in the church. We should help each other carry our burdens and abandon our sinful ways for love.

    Galatians 6:1-5 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load.

    This passage is exceptional, it describes exactly how we behave in the church in dealing with the sins of others. If we consider ourselves spiritually mature we do not try to judge others as being worse than us when they sin. We should not do so to make and see ourselves better than them, rather we are to help them be restored in a spirit of gentleness.

    Paul also says that in the process of restoration of others we must be careful and we must consider ourselves lest we also be tempted and eventually fall into sin ourselves.

    A sinning saint needs restoration, we have divine forgiveness but we need restoration. The one qualified to help others is a spiritual believer and by possessing a notable degree of the fruit of the Spirit, especially love for the brother in trouble and meekness and gentleness, Galatians 5:22-23, seeing that he could also someday slip into sin and need the same loving ministration.

    We must be careful not to be likewise tempted with the sins of others and we must be very careful not to think that we are not vulnerable as others are to fall in the same sins and even worse ones.

    The word of God warns us about this very issue in:

    1 Corinthians 10:12-13 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

    Therefore we must bear each others’ burdens. The law of Moses is described as a burden Acts 15:10, but the law of Christ is not so 1 John 5:3.

    The law of Christ is love! His burden is light, Matthew 11:30. This sets the disciple free to minister to his fellow believers Mark 10:43-45. The warning at the end of Galatians 6:1 is carried on also in 6:3.

    Over-evaluation of one’s self is indeed self-deception. We ought to put our work to the test. If we find anything there to give satisfaction, we can have rejoicing in our work. Our feeling will be one of gratification and contentment rather than pride and superiority over our brethren.

    Each believer had better evaluate himself aright now, in preparation for the Lord’s judgment in the coming day, when we must bear our burdens before the Lord. We will be held responsible for our own life and work, and we studied this already in Romans 14:12.

    We are to speak the truth to one another in love, in other words, the motivating factor is always to love God and the church, Ephesians 4:11-16; or at least it should be love.

    Any other reason or motivation other than devotion and love for God and the church is really what the Bible calls vain glory or selfish ambition. Paul speaks of this concept in a very descriptive and clear way in:

    Philippians 2:1-5a Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

    This is perhaps the best practical description as to how we must practice our love for others in the church.

    Unfortunately, we all have fallen into selfishness in the church. Sadly we see less and less of this type of love being practiced in the church.

    The family of God, the other believers, should be the number one and main objects of our love. Not our unbeliever friends, not even our biological carnal family. We have seen this before, Jesus did not retain His carnal family as important as God’s family and He made this very clear, see Luke 2:41-49;
    Matthew 12:46; Mark 3:31-35.

    Jesus said this also :

    Luke 14:26 If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.

    This last passage is extremely drastic as to what it means to be a disciple of Christ and to what level we must love God and God’s family. The hate Jesus mentions here is not an actual hate, He is not saying that we must neglect, abuse, mistreat our family. In fact we know that one of the Ten commandments says:

    Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

    Therefore God cannot and will not contradict Himself. Jesus is saying that the love we ought to have for Him and God should be so great that we should be willing to leave everyone behind when and if necessary. We must love God and by extension our brothers and sisters in Christ intensely and more than our very own carnal family.

    Therefore when Jesus says we must hate others to follow Him He is saying that we must not let anyone, not even our family take us away from doing God’s will and they must not love anyone more than God and His children.

    Sadly, especially today, this hardly ever occurs anymore. We usually still place our natural families and yes, even our natural friends above the church.

    Too often, way too often, sadly Christians neglect fellowship, spending time caring for their brothers and sisters and spend the bulk of their life and time on people who do not even belong to God.

    This is backward, it’s opposite of what God desires we do.

    We should always serve, obey and love God and the church more than any and everybody else, that is what Jesus is saying when He says we should hate others. In other words, our love for God should seem like hate for others, it means that we must obey and love Him before we obey and love anyone else. If family and friends want to make us compromise our service and love and faithfulness to God then we must be willing to walk away from them. We will still show them honor, respect and some degree of love but our devotion and love go to God and His family first.

    We had to say all this to understand how different a lot of believers are from what God’s word says when it comes to love and devotion to their brothers and sisters.

    Since love is the motivating factor in the church or it should be, in the church we always ought to do loving things and we ought not to do anything that could cause others to fall into sin or stumble or even be tempted to sin.

    So when Paul says Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. 

    For love, we ought not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall, in other words, sin in our brothers and sisters’ way.

    At this point, we should make some examples of how someone even inadvertently could do this.

    For example, let’s take women’s attire. The Bible says specifically that Christian women should not dress in a certain way and that they should dress modestly and not like women of ill repute or in an overly fancy or luxurious way, see 1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 3:3-4.

    We need to understand that in Paul’s days’ women who wore jewelry in excess or did their hair in a certain way, adorning them with jewels and other decorations were seen as loose women even prostitutes.

    Today, unfortunately, women’s fashion is very sexually provocative and explicitly revealing their bodies in such a way that often they cause private body parts to be noticeable and even visibly exposed.

    Such apparel may be acceptable in the world but it is not acceptable in the church, or at least it should not be. Sadly today in many churches this type of teaching is ignored and never taught. Many excuses are made to allow women even in the church to dress in such a provocative sexually explicit way. People in the church are seldom confronted about this and a pass is given them to continue to dress in such a way.

    However, we see that even back in Paul’s days this was not acceptable in the church. Today it seems that in most mainstream churches many worldly things are accepted and allowed to persist.

    However, we have seen that in the beginning of our study in Romans 12 we are exhorted to present our bodies a living sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable because this is our reasonable service of worship to God and then Paul says and not be conformed to the ways of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.

    This is indeed one area where a lot of female believers need renewing and transforming. Apparel is also an extension of our bodies because with apparel we either diminish or enhance the appearance of our bodies. If a woman or even a man dressed in such a way that their bodies are revealed indecently then that is not presenting their bodies to God as living sacrifices.

    We must also remember that when we become believers we are no longer our own but we have been bought at a price, Christ’s sacrifice. In reality, we cannot do as we please any longer but we must live to please God.

    1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

    Many believers do not seem to think that the way they dress or better the way they are undressed in reality, is not a thing that is important to God. It is!

    Besides the fact that a woman’s and a man’s bodies should not be exposed in such a way that the most intimate and private parts be visible or noticeable, we must also understand that it is not proper for a Christian to be dressed in a sexually explicit way, it is not right for a Christian woman to dress in the same fashion a prostitute or an exotic dancer or performer dresses. There is also regular fashion apparel that gives a very sexually explicit and revealing appearance, especially to women.

    Dresses and skirts with very high slits, dresses and or blouses that reveal a woman’s breasts, tight-fitting dresses, skirts and even pants that give very little room to a person’s imagination.

    This kind of apparel should not be worn by Christians. Besides all these reasons and they are all valid and sufficient there is yet another very important reason that fits the context of the verse we are studying.

    We ought not do anything to place a stumbling block or a reason to fall before our brothers and sisters.

    Dressing in such a revealing way may indeed cause a person to be tempted to sin. For example to fall into the sin of lust which according to Jesus can cause a person to commit adultery in their hearts.

    Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

    Many people will say that if a person sins it’s their fault and responsibility. This is true but it’s not only and exclusively their fault if and when they have been enabled to sin in such a way.

    This in principle is what Paul is saying, we as Christians are indeed responsible for one another and we should not in any way be a cause or effect of other believers’ sinfulness.

    In the world for example if a woman is unsaved and is dressed in a very provocative way and another unbeliever sins because of her and may for example even take advantage of her sexually aided by her provocative apparel God sees all this as the man who committed the act fault. No one has the right to assault a person sexually ever for any reasons that they may contrive.

    Yet, in the body of Christ, between believers things are different than in the world. However Jesus does claim this very thing as well:

    Matthew 18:7 Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

    This language is pretty clear, not only those who commit sins are responsible but also those who may cause them are responsible as well.

    Simply dressing provocatively should never elicit sexual assault but it certainly will indeed elicit adultery in the heart.

    In the body of Christ we always ought to think first to the good of others above our own, we saw that delineated beforehand when we read the Philippians 2 passage.

    We must love other believers in such a way that we never do anything to harm them in any way or cause them to sin.

    Many believers will also claim passages of Scripture in such a way to justify their liberty in being able to do what they want.

    How many times we heard the justification, the excuse that in Christ, in the church apparel is not and should not be an issue and that it does not matter how a person dresses as long as their heart is right before God.

    First of all, let me qualify and clarify something, indeed apparel does not matter in the church but that principle is valid only in certain ways.

    Let me give you an example. It does not matter to God if we wear a suit and tie or if our apparel is casual. In that respect, there is no specific dress code in church.

    However, there is indeed a dress code in principle not in the type of apparel itself. We have seen that in principle a woman should dress modestly, again this does not mean that a woman has to look frumpy or oversimplify her dress code. It just means that the apparel must be modest in that it is not revealing and exposing and revealing the body or certain parts of the body in such a way that it causes the attention to be drawn on the woman and the over revealed form of her body and body parts become stumbling block or a cause to make one fall into sin.

    Besides if a woman or even a man in certain cases, for example, why would a man want to wear a tight tee-shirt, shirt or tank top to purposely reveal his body, especially if the man has a gym worthy physique? He or she would dress this way because they indeed want to flaunt their bodies and this is wrong for so many reasons.

    The idea that a believer has the liberty to dress as they please is not right in every and all cases.

    People who want to flaunt their bodies and body parts indeed have a heart problem. Their hearts are not right with God. At the very least they are acting in a narcissistic way and that is a sinful form of self-love.

    It is not the self-love that is commanded by Scripture in the Greatest commandment that says:

    Mark 12:29-31 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. 30’And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

    The love your neighbor as yourself obviously hinges upon loving the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind and strength. When we love God in this way then we will love our brothers and sisters as God wants and we will also love ourselves in the way God wants us.

    Obedience to God is indeed a sign of loving God, we in fact love God by obeying Him there are so many passages of Scripture that teach us this truth, see John 14:15; John 14:21-24; 1 John 5:1-3.

    We don’t obey God’s commandments to earn our salvation we have been saved and loved by God and we love Him back by faithfulness and obedience. In fact Jesus says we shall love the Lord our God, that’s the precursor of our obedience, even if and when keeping the law of God.

    When it comes to loving our brothers and sisters like ourselves, this means that we will not ever do anything detrimental to them and to make them sin because if we love ourselves we would not want others to do it to us and if we love each other as God wants we will not commit sin because to sin is detrimental to us and God is offended who instead we must love with our obedience.

    Jesus commanded us to treat others as we would like to be treated.

    Matthew 7:12 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

    Surely we do not want others to sin against us and cause us to sin. Therefore we must never cause this to others. This is indeed the law. The law of God has always been a question of love and faith, not of works. Love for God and others and ourselves, a love that is in harmony with God and His law, this yes!

    Love without truth is not love for anything or anyone! God is love, but God is truth. Jesus who is the practical and physical demonstration of divine love has always been represented by the word or rather the adjective truth. From the very beginning Jesus is described like this:

    Surely we do not want others to sin against us and cause us to sin. So we must never cause this to others. This is indeed the law, it has always been a question of love and faith, not of works. Love for God and others and ourselves, but a love that is in harmony with God and His law, yes!

    Love without truth is not love for anything or anyone! God is love, but God is truth. Jesus who is the practical demonstration of divine love has always been represented by the word or rather the adjective truth. From the beginning Jesus is described like this:

    John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

    Grace and truth, this is the description of Jesus, the word of God which is truth became a man to dwell, live and die as a man, fully God and completely man.

    Jesus Himself declared that to worship, to serve, to live for God we must do it in spirit and truth!

    John 4:23-24 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

    This means, in other words, that one must be born again by the Spirit of God and live and walk, that is, serve God in a way that conforms with His truth, that is, His word, see John 17:17.

    Walking by the Spirit does not mean what many believe it to mean, in other words, an abstract and mystical thing, but it means to walk in obedience to the divine truth communicated to us by the Holy Spirit through the written word of God.

    The same was communicated and written essentially for this very reason, so we walk in it. So to walk in the Holy Spirit, first of all we must have Him, we must be born again of the Spirit as Jesus rightly said to Nicodemus in:

    John 3:3-6 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

    To see, that is, to understand the kingdom of God, spiritual things we must be born again. To enter the kingdom of God, that is, in the presence of God now and in the eternal future, we must be born again.

    In reality, Jesus is saying that to believe in Him, which is what He says later to Nicodemus, one must have been born again by the Spirit of God. See John 3:15-21.

    The natural man does not understand the things of God because they are understood only through the Holy Spirit in the person that is born again. Paul says for the man who is not born of the Spirit of God, not only is it impossible to understand the things of the Spirit but even these things are foolishness to them. It is not surprising then, that they put Jesus who is the truth to death, because they could not understand him nor understood the things He said.

    This is exactly what Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 2: 4-16.

    Jesus once made this statement:

    John 8:42-47 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” 

    Also in Romans 3: 10-12 Paul says that man without the Spirit of God in himself has no understanding of the things of God and of God and that he never seeks God.

    The Holy Spirit is called by Jesus himself the Spirit of truth and it is he who guided the Apostles and the prophets in the truth of God which they then wrote for the church of all ages. So that we could have the truth of God available to follow it and to know God as revealed in His word. John 14: 15-17; John 15: 26-27; John 16: 13-15.

    Finally Jesus Himself described himself as follows:

    John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. 

    The Apostle John himself. who is often called the disciple of love and rightly so, in fact yes, speaks a lot of divine love and that we must also have, but it is also interesting to understand that in his three epistles while John mentions love 42 times, he also mentions the truth 20 times and often these two are mentioned together, in the same context.

    So we see how important it is to practice God’s love following God’s truth, this must be clear in the mind and life of believers.

    If we are to be like our heavenly Father we must not only practice love but we must practice it in conformity with the truth of God. As we have said, God is love but God is also truth. The brand of God’s love does not rejoice in sin but in the truth, see 1 Corinthians 13: 6.

    Therefore, when it comes to loving each other in the church as believers, we see that our love must be practiced in the truth of the word of God, that is how the word of God says to do it. For example, false doctrine is error and it is not the truth. In reality, false doctrine is not a harmless thing as many think it is, it is not something to ignore and it is not loving to spread error. This is another reason why sound and true doctrine is not unloving nor is it divisive, it’s loving because God is love and He is also truth, the truth of God is loving!

    Unfortunately, the big problem in the church is that the majority of believers do not know or do not want to know how one should love another. As we have already said many times before if the believer’s mind is not renewed by the word of God it becomes at the very least difficult if not sometimes impossible to do the will of God. This is why we are still often very lacking in the practice of God’s will and we still sin too much.

    It is very, very important that believers know how to love in the way God commands, which is why loving as God wants is a commandment and not simply an act dictated by emotions or feelings.

    Obviously, God could not command a person to have certain emotions or feelings, however, God can command us to love each other if love is actually an action verb, which it is. Love is not merely sentimental or emotional but love is motivated by our love to God which is expressed by obedience to God’s commandments.

    This concept is more than evident from Scripture: John 14:15-24; John 15:9-12;
    1 John 3:23-24; 1 John 5:1-3.

    When we obey God we are loving Him and He commands us to love one another in the way He actually commands us to do it in His word. When we do it we love God and by extension, we love each other in the exact way God desires that we do.

    There are many exhortations in God’s word as to how we are to practice God’s love.

    This one is an important one to show us that God’s love is practiced as an action and not just words or feelings.

    1 John 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

    As we see here it is, this is the exact evidence of what we have been saying all along about love, God’s type of love. Even John confirms our love must be practiced in deed, in other words with very specific actions not just in words or even feelings, in deeds and truth! There it is! Love is practiced not only felt, but love is also practiced in deeds as God commands in His word, not in words, rather practiced in line with the truth of God.

    I repeat what I have said many times, love outside of the parameters and commandments of God is not love at all. There are many erroneous ways people practice so-called love. For example, it’s not loving at all to hide or ignore or justify sinful behavior in the name of love. Covering up our own or even other people’s sins is not loving at all.

    When the Scripture says that love covers a multitude of sins, it does not mean that we should cover up sinfulness and that when we do we are loving. Quite the opposite is true!

    1 Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.

    This passage is often used to justify hiding believers’ sins in the body of Christ, the church. This is a fallacy and actually, it is sinful behavior in itself.

    Scripture is filled with passages that tell us that we must not practice, cover-up, and justify sinfulness, in ourselves as well as in the church. That is not loving at all!

    God’s love covered, or better, took away all our sins through Jesus’s sacrifice. Yet God never, ever tells us that we can practice sin and cover it up by somehow practicing a loving cover-up. There is no such thing! The only loving covering for us is Jesus Christ’s redemptive work and yet it is nit by covering up the sin that we receive mercy but by confessing and repenting from sin, in other words by exposing sinfulness to the light of God’s word.

    Even in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, we find this pearl of a verse that destroys the theory that it is loving to cover up sinfulness.

    Proverbs 28:13 He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.

    As we know, Scripture does not contradict itself ever. Therefore covering up a multitude of sins with love does not mean to cover up our sins by simply ignoring them or working to hide them, whether they be our sins or the sins of others.

    Let’s look at some passages that confirm this very fact, in the very beginning of Jesus’s ministry He tells this to Nicodemus:

    John 3:16-21 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

    In the context of faith, believing in Jesus, we see that Jesus Himself says that anyone who believes in Jesus is not condemned. In order not to be condemned to eternal damnation we must have all, and I mean all of our sins forgiven. Even just with one unforgiving sin, a person would be condemned to eternal damnation. Anyone who does not believe in Christ is condemned already, why? Because none of their sins are forgiven, none of their sins are taken away because to have our sins taken away we must believe in Jesus as Lord and savior. As Jesus says however those who do not want to believe are condemned already. Part of believing in Christ Jesus as Lord and savior is practicing as we know, repentance of sin. Jesus says that these people do not believe and therefore do not want to repent and He describes this like this: And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

    As we see Jesus says that they love their evil deeds and they do not want to bring their evil deeds to the light to expose them.

    Instead of those who believe He says this:

    But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

    This is the description of repentance, however, those who believe do not repent either alone or once only live a life of repentance that is caused by the Spirit of God that involves the believer’s will. In other words, believers bring their works in the light of God’s truth to be seen that they are made in God, believers must not only exhibit their good works but must expose their sin in light of the truth of the word of God!

    When we do the truth we do not hide our sinfulness. Therefore whoever says that love covers a multitude of sins means covering up sins this is not accurate at all.

    Scripture also says these things:

    Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

    Ephesians 5:8-13 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.

    James 5:16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

    As we see very clearly God’s word does not tell us that it’s proper or loving to cover up sin.

    The word of God says the opposite, it says that we must confess our sinfulness, we must repent form it, in other words, turn away from it and change our mind regarding it to line up our thoughts and actions to God’s will and word. The word of God and the Lord Himself tell us that we must not walk in darkness but we must bring our actions into the light of God and His word so we can deal with them according to God’s will and word. We have seen that God’s word exhorts us no to walk in darkness but in the light of God and to have instead nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness rather we must reprove them. Not only must we reprove them in others and the world but also our own life.

    1 John 1:5-10 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

    Although this passage speaks of the difference between believers and unbelievers, between those who, even in John’s day professed they knew God but preferred to walk in darkness, in other words, sinfulness and those who know God and strove to love and obey God because they were born again indeed. Yet, this passage illustrates in principle what a believer does and how he or she lives, not perfectly but lives practicing in their life what John says.

    God indeed is light and in Him nor darkness dwells. There is no evil or sinfulness in God! He is pure and transcendent from sin, wholly separated from it. So those who say they have fellowship with God but walk practicing a life of sinfulness and were never transformed they walk in the darkness and lie and are not practicing the truth. However, even us who believe can damage the fellowship, not relationship, fellowship with God and with each other is we walk in sin and when we do we are lying and are not practicing the truth in that moment. Those who are in the light must, therefore, walk in the light, even as Paul said previously in Ephesians 4:8-13.

    Therefore if we walk in God’s light as He is in the light, if we, therefore, are truly born again, we have indeed fellowship with God and even with each other and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sins. Those who say they have no sin, those who think they are good people, those who cannot admit their sinful status, deceive themselves and the truth is not in them.

    One cannot belong to God nor truly believe in Him and Jesus if a person cannot admit their sinfulness. It means that there is no acknowledgment or willingness to admit their sinfulness.

    This cannot and will not lead to salvation and in case we are believers and do not want to admit our sinful behavior before God, in other words, confess our sins, we ruin our fellowship with God and other believers and also we ruin our own life in the process. However, when a person confesses one’s sins, in other words, admits they are a sinner in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness and will turn to Jesus to receive them. This is true also for believers, we do as a lifestyle, confess, agree with God, because that is what confession means, when we agree with God about us having sinned against Him, God forgives the unbeliever and cleanses both the unbeliever as well as the believer of all their unrighteousness.

    If we say we have not sinned, we have made God to be a liar and His word is not in us, because He claims that we all have sinned and fallen short of His glory, Romans 3:23; that there is no righteous man or woman, no not one, Romans 3:10.

    It is more than evident from much of Scripture that all men are sinners and born in sin and that no man is not a sinner or that does not sin.

    Psalms 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.

    1 Kings 8:46 “When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin)

    Psalms 130:3 If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?

    Therefore the passage love covers a multitude of sins does not mean at all that we must cover up each others sinfulness but that when we love each other in the church we help each other to confess our sins and we help each other in the process of reconciliation and abandonment of our sins, in other words, repentance.

    In fact, besides this one, another passage fits the context of what we are studying. In other words, we must love each other in the church and as Paul says we should never place anything in our brothers or sisters’ way to make them stumble, in other words, sin and we should not place any obstacles before them.

    Our love for each other must be so that we are very careful not to do anything at all or behave in any way that could cause our brothers and sisters to sin.

    These next Scriptures are written exactly to warn us not to use the liberty we have in Christ, our forgiveness and God’s grace in our lives should not be used as an excuse or cloak to sin and cause others to sin.

    1 Corinthians 8:9 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.

    1 Corinthians 10:23-24 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.

    Galatians 5:13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

    1 Peter 2:15-16 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men– 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.

    Unfortunately, too many times believers use the Scriptural argument that since they have liberty in Christ, which is exactly what we are talking about in this chapter 14 of Romans, they can do what they want.

    This is could not be further from the truth of God. We have liberty in Christ to do what we want as long as it’s not sinful or as long as we do not cause anyone else to sin with our liberty and freedom we have in Christ.

    Even for ourselves, Paul says that although all things are lawful for us, again, things that are not sinful, however, all things although not sinful are not helpful nor are they edifying, to us or others.

    As we have seen Paul and even Peter tell us that we ought not to use our freedom and liberty in Christ as an excuse to sin or make anyone else sin.

    In this context and subject, it is very, very important to understand this concept!

    Why? Because that is exactly what many, too many believers do and think they can do whatever they want and that all that’s OK to do.

    Getting back to what was mentioned before about women’s apparel, many Christian women believe that the way they dress in church is not important and that they have the freedom and liberty to dress as they want and that it’s not important if they dress in a provocative and revealing way.

    Well, first of all, the Scriptures prohibit women to dress in such manner and we have seen that.

    Therefore, it’s not even a question of having the liberty in Christ to do so, they do not. However, since the concept of inappropriate apparel has been sadly dismissed, ignored and not taught in the church and because most of the church has sadly adopted worldly and carnal behaviors as normal, then inappropriate apparel is allowed and not even considered as a transgression of Scripture and a demonstration of unloving behavior toward other believers and especially God.

    This is exactly in line with our study. Even if women could dress in any way they want, they cannot, but even if they could, we must understand why it’s prohibited, because they can cause, especially male believers to be tempted and sin in their hearts and mind. Besides, they would take away the attention away from God and the worship due to Him in the assembly while placing it on themselves instead.

    Therefore, it is never, ever, OK to do anything at all that can cause others to sin, for any and no reason at all! As believers, we are our brothers and sisters keepers and we are indeed responsible to love one another and not cause each other to sin in any way.

    There are many, many things that we can do to place stumbling blocks or causes of sin before our brothers and sisters and we will take a good look at these in our study.

    Romans 14:14-16 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.

    Let’s not forget, Paul was called by Jesus Christ Himself, when He converted Him on the way to Damascus: Acts 9:3-6; Jesus also tells this about Paul to Ananias the disciple in Damascus:

    Acts 9:15-16 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

    Later on in several of his epistles Paul confirms his divine call as an Apostle, see Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 9:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:8-11; Galatians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1; 1 Timothy 2:7 and he also says that he was taught of the Lord Jesus Himself as well as being inspired by the Holy Spirit.

    Galatians 1:11-12 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

    Galatians 1:15-19 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days.

    This passage indicates that Paul was indeed taught by the direct revelation of Jesus Christ regarding the Gospel and that he was taught by Jesus personally for three years.

    Paul had indeed achieved the mind of Christ, 1 Corinthians 2:16.

    Paul took seriously his Apostolic authority and his teachings he administered to the church and he wanted the church to take them seriously as well.

    1 Corinthians 14:36-37 Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? 37 If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.

    Paul had the authority and the knowledge of Christ in his teachings and in his writings and Paul, as well as Peter, knew that all of Scripture is not just human writings but God’s revealed will and information given to His people by His Spirit.

    2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

    2 Peter 1:20-21 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

    Therefore Paul had Apostolic authority conferred to him by Jesus Christ Himself and was taught many things by Jesus Christ through personal revelation and also Paul was inspired by God’s Spirit in all his writings. Because of all this Paul now states that he knows and is convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself.

    He knew and was convinced by the Lord, in all the ways that we described, that nothing was unclean in itself.

    Let us remember that for the believers who came from Jewish culture many things still could be considered unclean as they had many dietary restrictions that were listed in the law. They had clean and unclean foods to contend with as well as other rules that were given them which could have rendered them unclean ceremonially. In other words, if they became unclean they could not take part in active temple worship. In other words, they could not worship God properly if they became unclean.

    See Leviticus 5:2; Leviticus 7:20-21; Leviticus 11:4-8; Leviticus 11:24-47. There are many others as well yet these will suffice to render the point that for the Jewish people many things made them unclean to worship God.

    There has been a change though in the New Testament, with Jesus who came and fulfilled the law of God and has installed the New and everlasting covenant which He has fulfilled in Himself and has in Himself fulfilled all those ceremonial rules and regulation, therefore, He has made all things clean that once were unclean.

    The Scriptures of the New Testament make these points very clear.

    This next one is a very clear and concise one regarding this point:

    Colossians 2:13-21 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. 16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. 20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations– 21 Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,”

    Paul makes it very clear here, there can be no longer any judgment from anyone as to what we eat or drink or observing or not observing certain days, such as the Sabbath or other feasts or festivals.

    Pail says that those things were a shadow of things to come, in other words, Jesus Christ who came, as he mentioned beforehand to take away the guilt the law had caused by condemning man’s inability to keep and fulfill it completely. Jesus wiped out the written requirements that were against us, in other words, the transgression of the law of God, all the guiltiness which was contrary to us and He, Jesus took it out of the way and nailed all our guilt to the cross in Him.

    Paul also said it this way regarding what Jesus did about fulfilling the law in our behalf:

    Romans 8:1-4 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    What we understand from all this is that once a person is in Christ, not only that person has become a real new creation in Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:17, but as we read in the previous Romans 8 passage Jesus fulfilled the entire law of God in our behalf as well.

    Again, because Jesus fulfilled the law on our behalf does not at all mean that we can live in sin any longer. This is indeed what Paul taught in Romans 6.

    Romans 6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!

    Sin is a transgression or a violation of God’s law. We saw that during His ministry on earth Jesus had elevated the bar of God’s law from merely acting in disobedience to it, to the internal disobedience of God’s law. Jesus did so to show that it was not enough just not to practice the act or external behavior of sin but also the internal transgression of the person.

    Jesus also said this which is perfectly in line with what Paul is saying in our study of Romans 14:14.

    Matthew 15:10-11 When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”

    Matthew 15:16-20 So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? 18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 These are the things which defile a man,

    As we see, these passages are very clear as to what Jesus was saying regarding foods and drinks, it is not what goes in the mouth that defiles a man but actually what comes out of a man as a sinner, that is what makes people defiled. It’s the sin in us that contaminates us.

    Jesus as we see claims that even before the sin becomes an act it is already generated inside a person’s heart and mind. This is where God sees sin first not when it becomes an overt action but when it’s a covert internal act.

    This is why mankind needs a new heart that only God can give Ezekiel 36:26-27. This passage is what it means to be regenerated and born again. Our battle against sin must begin with regeneration and a new heart that responds to God’s word, will, and law. However, our battle against sin as we saw in the study of Chapter 12 of Romans, that to continue to be transformed into the image of Christ and not be conformed to the ways of the world a believer must renew their mind as well.
    However, without a new heart, a person will never, ever renew their mind.

    There will be no willingness to do so as 1 Corinthians 2:14 and

    Romans 8:5-7 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

    We also have seen that as Paul said in Romans 14:14, Christ taught him that no food or drink is unclean now. Even though God gave those directives we previously saw regarding clean and unclean foods to Israel, His Old Testament rules were all fulfilled by Jesus’ life and death.

    Indeed the food regulations given to Israel by God were what we know as ceremonial laws. They had to do with the temple worship and were tied to the nation of Israel they were not rules that were ever given to nor required to be observed by Gentiles even in the New Covenant.

    Yet, in the New Covenant, even Jews who converted to Christianity were no longer required to observe these rules because in all reality, the temple worship was abolished bu God Himself as now all believers, Gentile and Jewish were supposed to worship God in spirit and in truth.

    John 4:20-24 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

    The Old Covenant was abolished and the New and Everlasting one was established, completed and fulfilled and sealed by Jesus Christ Himself through His work of redemption:

    Hebrews 8:6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.

    Hebrews 8:13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

    See also Hebrews 9:1-28.

    Scriptures clearly teaches and states that Gentile believers were not ever bound by Jewish Old Testament regulations especially ceremonial ones. Acts 15:5-11.

    Acts 15:19-20 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.

    However, even the Jewish Apostles had received the revelation that God, with Christ’s sacrifice, cleansed the impure things that once would defile the Jewish people, so when a Jew or a Gentile are in Christ they have no more food restrictions as God has cleansed all of them.

    Acts 10:9-16 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” 15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” 16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.

    This passage is very explanatory and clear regarding this subject. Yet, many in the church and out of the Evangelical church will object to this passage by saying that what God was trying to communicate to Peter was the fact that He was telling Peter that He made the Gentiles clean through Christ’s sacrifice. Although God did indeed make the Gentiles as well as the Jews objects of His love and salvation, remember that for Jews the Gentiles were always unclean and contact with Gentiles would render them ceremonially unclean:

    John 18:28 Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.

    The Jews considered even the touch of a Gentile as a legal defilement; and therefore would not venture into the Praetorium, for fear of contracting some impurity, which would have obliged them to separate themselves from all religious ordinances until the evening,

    As we see the defilement would disqualify them to be ceremonially clean to eat of the Passover meal and therefore not be able to celebrate the feast God had commanded them to keep.

    Let’s remember that God had made provisions for His people to be able to celebrate the Passover in case they were defiled at the appointed time for the feast.

    Numbers 9:9-11 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If anyone of you or your posterity is unclean because of a corpse, or is far away on a journey, he may still keep the LORD’s Passover. 11 On the fourteenth day of the second month, at twilight, they may keep it.

    All this is to say that to be ceremonially unclean was not a moral transgression of the law nevertheless it did cause the people of God not to keep the feasts or take part in the worship of God.

    All this through Christ in the New Covenant has become obsolete. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice fulfilled and established the New Covenant in His blood and all the ceremonial laws were also abolished especially because the Temple worship was also abolished as well.

    This is to say that the passage we read in Acts 10 did not simply speak of Gentiles being purified and included in God’s salvation but indeed it did speak of foods being purified and made clean in the New Testament.

    Other passages confirm this very fact. For example, the very fact that Paul once rebuked Peter as recorded in the epistle to the Galatians is a very important thing regarding this very context.

    In fact, the epistle to the church of Galatia was indeed written to address the very fact that there were some Jews that were trying to subvert the church in that area by forcing them to observe the law of Moses and even telling Gentile believers that in order to receive God’s salvation it was necessary not only to believe in Christ but necessary to be in observance of the Mosaic law.

    Almost the entire letter written by Paul to the Galatians is a stern rebuke to this church not to be deceived by these Jew into believing that following the Mosaic law was necessary for their salvation.

    This is what Paul writes regarding him rebuking Peter:

    Galatians 2:11-16 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

    As we can clearly understand from what Paul writes here, Peter and other Jewish Christians including Barnabas were acting in hypocrisy when they were acting in a biased way toward the Gentile believers.

    Obviously, beforehand both Peter and Barnabas used to fellowship with the Gentiles believers. Eating and drinking with them. No doubt they were eating all and anything that the Gentile believers offered them and that rightly so. Now though, because some Jewish disciples came from Jerusalem from James, suddenly to appear as they were still observing the law and Jewish customs they separated themselves from the Gentile believers and did no longer eat and drink with them.

    Even Barnabas, who had traveled extensively with Paul among the Gentile nations and never acted in such a way, now even he, Paul says got carried away with their hypocrisy.

    It is evident that Paul and Peter and Barnabas clearly understood that God had made all foods clean and had purified them so that there were no longer any alimentary restrictions for the Jews or the Gentiles.

    Therefore it becomes very clear from Scripture that what Paul said, that he received understanding from the Lord Jesus regarding the fact that all foods are clean is true and we also must adhere to this truth and be sure that it is so.

    However, there are times and circumstances where a believer may be weak in his or her faith and may still want to hang on to some kind of food regulation, thinking that doing so may render them more holy and righteous.

    This may be because they had and have been brought up in the Jewish faith and kept the food restrictions so now they feel that they must continue to do so even as Christians.

    It may be that a believer in more recent times has come out of the Seventh Day Adventist religion where they insist one must keep regulations of the Old Testament Law such as keeping the Sabbath as well as, in their case, forcing members of that religion to become vegetarians. They claim this by stating that in the beginning Adam and Eve, when they were created were vegetarians and ate no meat, they cite this verse as the basis on which they found this regulation:

    Genesis 1:29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.

    Howbeit there may be some benefits in being vegetarians versus omnivores, the point is that Scripture is clear throughout that God never has commanded anyone to be vegetarian after this particular incident here in Genesis one. Later on in Genesis 9, God said this:

    Genesis 9:3-4 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

    This is a very important Scripture as it teaches us that God has approved and allowed mankind to eat all meats as food. Here it is important to see that before the giving of the law to Israel all meats were allowed to be eaten besides plants.

    God gave only one specific commandment about meat, that it ought not to be eaten in its raw form, or better raw by eating it right off the dead animal. I do not believe at all that this means that one cannot eat meat cooked in a rare form as some erroneously believe.

    It was only until later on when God gave food regulations to Israel that animals were subdivided in clean and unclean and only then were the unclean animals forbidden to be eaten. However, it is important to notice that this regulation was a ceremonial one and that God did not forbid Gentle to eat unclean animals if they so desired to eat.

    Late on in the New Testament, these regulations are again lifted for all believers. In fact, Paul writing to Timothy says this:

    1 Timothy 4:1-7 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. 6 If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.

    The practice of priestly celibacy began to spread in the Western Catholic Church in the early Middle Ages. In the early 11th century Pope Benedict VIII responded to the decline in priestly morality by issuing a rule prohibiting the children of priests from inheriting property. A few decades later Pope Gregory VII issued a decree against clerical marriages.

    The Church was a thousand years old before it definitively took a stand in favor of celibacy in the twelfth century at the Second Lateran Council held in 1139 when a rule was approved forbidding priests to marry. In 1563, the Council of Trent reaffirmed the tradition of celibacy.

    We see from these self-evident facts that this is what Paul is talking about in 1 Timothy 4.

    However, Paul also says to Timothy that all foods, all creatures, are approved by God to be used as food. There are therefore no more food restrictions for believers whether they are Jewish or Gentile.
    Paul says:

    1 Timothy 4:4-5 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

    Nothing is to be refused and all foods are allowed to be eaten if received giving thanks for them to God and by sanctifying it by the word of God and prayer.

    In fact, Paul later says this:

    1 Timothy 4:6 If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.

    To be a good minister of Jesus Christ these facts must be taught to believers, Paul says that if and when we do so we demonstrate that we are nourished by the words of the true faith and sound doctrine.

    Paul states that we should carefully follow his instructions to teach these truths to the church.

    Indeed if pastors heeded this teaching instead of ignoring it, in the end, we would not be needing to deal with the principles delineated in Romans 14 as often as we still have to do in the church, even today.

    However, Paul goes on in the same passage of 1 Timothy 4 saying something many either teach erroneously or misunderstand. He says this:

    1 Timothy 4:7-8 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.

    What many teach erroneously or misunderstand about this passage is that, according to them, this speaks about bodily exercise as in working out, such as physical activities. I do not believe that the context fully allows this interpretation. The context here is speaking about abstaining from foods and marriage as nonviable doctrines to observe in the believer’s case. The subsequent verses just mentioned must follow the argument and the context that Paul is explaining here. Therefore, what Paul is saying here is that in light of what he wrote we must reject profane and old wives fables, this can easily be understood better in the light of what Paul wrote Timothy in his second letter written him.

    2 Timothy 4:1-4 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

    This passage is perfectly in line with what Paul wrote in the 1 Timothy 4 passage just worded a little differently. However, we see that Paul in both cases is speaking of basically the same subject. He is exhorting Timothy to preach, teach, rebuke, exhort, convince with all patience and teaching. To always be ready to do so when it’s popular or not. Then Paul says, because a time will come, this is the same he says in 1 Timothy 4 when he says that in latter times some will depart from the faith and heed deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. Here Paul says that in latter times people will not endure true and sound doctrine but will surround themselves with teachers that will teach what they want to hear, teach what satisfies their flesh rather than the spirit, these people will turn away from the truth and turn aside to fables. This is exactly what Paul is saying also in 1 Timothy 4 when he states the following:

    1 Timothy 4:1-2 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy,

    1 Timothy 4:7 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.

    So the profane and old wives’ fables is also what Paul mentions in 2 Timothy 4 as well as in

    1 Timothy 4.

    Then also in the same context Paul says that we must exercise ourselves in godliness, in other words in growing spiritually, then he says bodily exercise in this particular instance is talking about exactly what we are studying here in Romans 14, in other words, that foods and drinks are physical and bodily things and they do not at all influence our spiritual growth and maturity. Foods do not affect our spiritual maturity. That is what Paul is speaking about when he says to avoid fables, in other words, the erroneous doctrines mentioned and that abstaining from foods or avoiding marriage are in the end things that Paul calls here bodily exercise. Growing in Christ-likeness instead is profitable for all things.

    The passage in 2 Timothy 4 on the other hand, although it certainly includes the subject and context brought forth in 1 Timothy 4 it also includes all other doctrines as well as we clearly understand from the words used by Paul.

    So now we clearly understand, I hope, that Paul received all this knowledge from Jesus Christ. Therefore all foods are clean and can be eaten and do not add or subtract anything from our spiritual walk and growth.

    Then in Romans 14:14 Paul says this: But to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

    One could be puzzled at this point, how can God purify and allow all foods and declared them clean and yet Paul says that if a person considers something unclean to them it is unclean?

    To those that esteem something to be unclean, to him it is unclean; because if he acted contrary to his conscience, he must necessarily feel guilt; for he who acts in opposition to his conscience in one case may do it also in another, and thus even the plain declarations of the word of God may later be set aside on things of the utmost importance; though others who are better taught know those same to be considered with indifference.

    It is dangerous to trifle with a person’s conscience, even when it is erroneous, One’s conscience should be borne with and it should be instructed, taught, it must be won over, not taken by storm. Its feelings should be respected because in this case they refer to God and have their foundation in His fear. The one who sins against his conscience in things which everyone else knows to be indifferent will soon do it also in those things in which his spiritual life is most intimately concerned. It is a great blessing to have a well-informed conscience.

    This is why Paul tells Timothy to teach those things and not neglect the teaching of them. Paul says if we do teach these things we are good ministers of Jesus Christ. We must teach and exhort things to instruct the believers. Certainly, there are times when it is required the pastors/elders to rebuke and give very strong warnings and exhortations regarding certain things that require forcefulness.

    One must strongly exhort and command against sinful behavior which is delineated in Scripture and one must rebuke because of the same. Yet as far as all other things go, especially things like the ones we are talking about in our study, in other words, things that aren’t sinful but that people may practice for various reasons, things that involve a person’s conscience, things that in this case Paul told Timothy to teach and as we said these things need to be taught in order not to violate a believer’s conscience concerning things like foods, drinks, celebration or not celebration of days and feasts, regarding these things, Paul says and we must agree these things need to be taught, we need to convince and gently bring a person to grow spiritually so that they can arrive at the right conclusions regarding the things in question.

    In most cases, pastor/elders are called to teach, explain and convince doing it with patience and gentleness.

    2 Timothy 2:24-25a And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition,

    2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching.

    The job of the pastor/elder is one of instruction and guidance and these take many forms.

    In this case particularly and when it does not have to do with sin and rebellion a pastor/elder must teach and convince with gentleness not forcefully as not to offend a person’s conscience.

    We can see the difference in New Testamentary instructions to pastors/elders as to how this all works.

    1 Thessalonians 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.

    Pastors/elders must warn the unruly, comfort the fainthearted and uphold the weak and be patient with all.

    When it comes to sin, rebellion, unruliness and false doctrines this is what pastors/elders are required to do:

    Titus 1:12-13 One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,

    Titus 2:15 Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.

    1 Timothy 5:20 Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.

    Just think, when it comes to facing sinfulness, rebellion and disobedience in the church, today most of the church has become so soft and often even ineffective in fighting sin in its midst. Most church leaders today would never use the kind of rebuke stated in this last passage. They would never dream of rebuking a believer who lives in rebellion and sinfulness in that manner.

    Most today would say that that is unloving behavior, and I say, if God is love and this is God’s word to His church, how can doing what God says to do be considered unloving?

    This happens because God is not known and understood as He should. When people take God and create their image and version of God in their minds this is what happens. When the church adopts the world’s philosophies and ideologies and tries to apply them to the person of God and use these as the tools through which interpret Scripture we will end up with disaster and in reality idolatry.

    Worshiping and serving God when His character and His attributes are modified to suit our flesh and desires is worshiping God made in our own likeness and image not as He truly is, and this is a very dangerous place to be as it causes idolatry and the adoption of false doctrine that is caused by a faulty understanding of the person of God.

    However, when it comes to addressing issues that are inherent to the conscience but are not clearly sinfulness, pastors/elders must teach, convince, explain these issues and reconcile them properly to Scripture but must do it in a gentle manner, they cannot in some way forcefully constrain a person to adjust rather they must wait for the person as they are taught to arrive at the right conclusions by themselves.

    This is also another reason why between believers there should never be contentions and disagreements that ensue over the things mentioned in this chapter and even beyond. We cannot be judgmental in either cases, if a person celebrates a feast or holiday and one does not, either believer should not judge the other. The same goes when it comes to foods and drink. As we already said before, if a believer moderately and responsibly drinks alcoholic beverages another who abstains should not judge them and those who do drink should not force or try to convince those who don’t to drink. There are many other of these kinds of situations and we must not offend our brothers and sisters and make them violate their conscience regarding these issues.

    Romans 14:15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.

    If and when we grieve and offend our brothers and sisters over foods and any other element that is not sinful, we are no longer walking in love. Period!

    There cannot be any excuses or objections to this fact, or at least there should not be. We have seen that there are many issues in life that are not sinful in themselves; but if a brother or a sister’s faith is weak and they believe and think that they want to eat or not eat a food drink or not drink, celebrate or not celebrate a day or a feast, we cannot offend them, we cannot grieve them over this things and if and when we do God says we are not walking in love.

    If we are indeed more mature in our Christian walk we will have no problem in allowing those with a weaker faith to regard those who believe these things in the way they do and to practice them.

    If we try at all costs to forcefully oblige and constrain our brothers and sisters to comply with the way we believe we become those who in reality have a weaker faith than them. We should be able to eat or not eat, drink or not drink, celebrate or nor celebrate without violating our conscience and allow others to live in the same way.

    When things are not sinful, when false doctrines are not the issue, then we are not to grieve each other when we try to force each other to be constrained to practice or not practice certain things.

    This is not loving behavior at all. I believe as we also mentioned before in our study that this is what

    Paul mentioned in:

    Philippians 3:15-16 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

    It is those who are more mature in doctrinal and spiritual understanding who must patiently wait upon the others to arrive at the same level of knowledge and maturity in doctrinal truths.

    It is however incumbent upon the pastors/elders to help the less mature believers, through patient teaching and instruction arrive at a more complete spiritual maturity.

    Those who understand that when things are not sinful in nature they can be practiced or abstained from, they are the ones that should not be a stumbling block nor grieve others who believe otherwise.

    The verse we are studying is so clear and simple that we do not need to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining it. Somethings in God’s word are just that, simple and clear!

    Then Paul says in the same verse Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.

    This statement may seem to some a bit over the top. One may ask how is it possible that we destroy a brother or sister for whom Christ died and do it with food?

    It’s not so much the food itself that destroys our brothers or sisters, in reality, it is us not walking in love that does. It is this way that we demonstrate or not demonstrate our love to them, through how we use anything for that matter. Here Paul is speaking properly about foods and drinks and yet by the same principle, we could include many other things as well.

    Furthermore, if one’s legitimate choice of food and drink causes another to stumble, and one insists on doing it one’s way and scandalizing a fellow Christian, indicates that such a person, even though he has not violated his conscience, has violated the law of love for the brother or sister. Indeed, one could even “destroy” the faith of fragile or young or weak Christians by brazenly violating what they deem to be proper Christian scruples.

    It appears likely that the social setting Paul has in mind is the Christian fellowship meal, for Paul envisions the weak seeing the strong eat the offensive meat, and he envisions the strong noticing the weak ones eating only vegetables and drinking no wine. He also envisions a setting in which the weak might be tempted by the behavior of the strong to violate their conscience.

    All of this points to the meals early Christians were sharing as a community. It is, therefore, to notice that Paul assumes there will be such joint meals in Rome involving Jewish and Gentile Christians. The community may be divided on some issues, but they are not entirely split into completely separate or rival factions.

    Paul is concerned throughout this passage to inculcate behavior that unites rather than divides the weak and the strong in Rome. It is a bad witness to allow something that is not evil in itself to be spoken of as evil in public by those who are scandalized by a person’s conduct.

    It is a matter of love, unity, and witness, and it is also a matter of priorities because loving others is more important than being right regarding what can be eaten or drunk, what days will be celebrated or not, and like issues.

    If something is not sinful we should be able to agree to disagree without contention or harsh judgment because if we do not we will indeed offend the weaker brother or sister and their faith can be weakened and we can even push them into sinning which would be detrimental not only to the brother or sister we would cause to sin but also to us and the entire fellowship.

    If we cause a brother or sister to stumble we are also sinning because we violate the law of love. Which in reality is transgressing God’s law, period.

    The brothers and sisters whose conscience we violate even in matters that are not sinful could feel that they can violate their conscience because we are forcing them to do so. As we said before we should not force anyone to go against their conscience until they are convinced and ready to change their belief on their terms.

    Paul gives a very eloquent and clear example of this in another passage. He spoke of this concept in a couple of other passages.

    1 Corinthians 8:1-13 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. 2 And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. 4 Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. 7 However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. 9 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? 11 And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

    As we see Paul explains very clearly a principle of what we are studying here in Romans 14. This is probably exactly what he is referring to in chapter 14 of Romans.

    Let’s look at this passage for a moment. What does it teach us and explain to us?

    The very first thing Paul says is that he is referring to what he is speaking about regarding foods, in particular, meats previously offered to idols.

    To understand this passage and the practices of people in those days. Better yet, how this was practiced in those days.

    For a better understanding of all this, we must observe that it was the custom among the heathens to make feasts with their sacrifices, and not only to eat these meats themselves but later to invite their friends and family to partake of them together. These meats and foods were usually kept in the temple, where the sacrifices were offered, and, if any food was left over when the feast ended, it was usual to carry away a portion of it and offer it to their friends; what remained after that belonged to the priests, who often sold it in the markets, 1 Corinthians 10:25. Feasts were always accounted among the heathen as sacred and religious so that they were used to sacrifice before all their feasts; and it was accounted a very profane thing among them, to eat at their private tables any meat whereof they were not first sacrificed on such occasions.

    In these circumstances Christians lived among idolaters, they had many relationships and friends that were such, with whom they had to keep up an acquaintance and with which maintain good relations. Because of this, they had many occasions to eat at their tables. So what should they do if anything that had been sacrificed should be set before them? What, if they were invited to feast with them in their temples? It seems as if some of the Corinthian believers had entertained the opinion that this might be done because they knew that an idol was nothing in the world, verse. 4.

    The apostle seems to answer this more directly in chapter 10, and here he argues, upon the supposition of their being right in this thought, against the abuse of their liberty to the prejudice of others; but he condemns such liberty in chapter 10.

    The apostle introduces his discourse with some remarks about knowledge that seem to carry in them a censure of such pretenses to knowledge: We know, says the apostle, that we all have knowledge (v. 1); as if he had said, “You who take such liberty are not the only known persons; we who abstain know as much as you of the vanity of idols, and that they are nothing; but we know too that the liberty you take is culpable because even lawful liberty must be used in love and not to the prejudice of the weaker brethren.”

    In fact he stated just that in verse one, that the knowledge of doctrinal facts and realities must be used in the church among believers in love, not in prejudice and with bitter judgment against the weak conscience of weaker believers who still retain in their conscience facts in different amount of knowledge or better in lack of knowledge compared to others.

    Paul warns to not let doctrinal knowledge plunge us into pride, this is why he warns that knowledge can puff up, that is another way of saying that knowledge can make one fall in the sin of pride which would in term cause us to use harsh judgment against some weak brothers who do not have the same amount of knowledge we do or who have not allowed their conscience to become trained properly by the truth of God.

    Paul is exhorting the Corinthian believers and us, and the Roman church that love is the supreme law and that we must always use love and allow our love for other believers to have precedence over what we know. We did specify before that the practice of love may be applied slightly differently when it comes to confronting sinfulness in the church and believers. We still must be loving in our confrontation of sin and our rebukes also yet in cases where sinfulness is delineated and specified in God’s word, in those cases it is no longer a question of conscience but of truth that cannot be compromised or delayed in any way. In other words, we cannot wait for the person to be convicted on their own when it comes to open sin and rebellion. We cannot justify the lack of knowledge of others regarding sin.

    In these cases, however, we can and must be sensitive to the brethren’s conscience and must love them in spite of their lack of knowledge regarding these things.

    In 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 Paul shows us the vanity of idols: regarding the eating of things that have been sacrificed to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world; or, there is no idol in the world; or, an idol can do nothing in the world. The meaning in the general sense is this, that heathen idols have no divinity at all in them; this is why in the Old Testament they are commonly called lies and vanities, or lying vanities. They are only imaginary gods, and no better than imaginary beings; they have no power to pollute the sons of God, and thereby render them unfit when foods offered to them are eaten by a child or servant of God. Every creature of God is good if it is received with thanksgiving,
    1 Timothy 4:4. There is no power in these heathen vanities to change their nature, there is no other God but one God. Heathen idols are not gods, nor to be respected as gods, for there is no other God but one. Note, the unity of the Godhead is a fundamental principle in Christianity. The gods of the heathens are nothing in the world, they have no divinity in them, nothing of the real godhead belonging to them; for there is no other God but one. They may be called gods: Some are called gods, in heaven and earth, many gods, and many so-called lords; but they are falsely called this. The heathens had many such idols, some in heaven and some on earth, celestial so-called deities, that were of highest rank and repute among them, terrestrial ones as well, men made into gods, that were to mediate for men with the former, and were regarded by the pagans to preside over earthly affairs. These are in scripture commonly called Baalim.

    Then in 1 Corinthians 8:7-13 The apostle, having granted, and indeed confirmed, the opinion of some among the Corinthians, that idols were nothing, proceeds to show them that their inference from this assumption was not entirely just, namely, that therefore they might go into the idol-temple, and eat of the sacrifices, and feast there with their heathen neighbors.

    He does not indeed so much insist upon the unlawfulness of the thing in itself as the mischief such freedom might do to damage weaker Christians, persons that did not have the same measure of knowledge they did.

    It’s like saying, for example, in today’s terms, that a Christian wants to go to a festival where there are foods but the festival has idolatrous connections such as some feasts the Roman Catholic celebrates in honor of certain saints or honor of Mary for example. This can also be applied to other food festivals that have other religious connections as well.

    What Paul is saying is that the believer has the freedom to partake of such foods ( not the religious ritual or service) but the eating of the foods sold at such gatherings. Even today we have the freedom in Christ to partake of such foods. Not sure as to why we would partake of certain festivities but we have the freedom to do so and it is not sinful to do so.

    The main examples Paul give us in Scripture is that they or even we might be invited to some festivities by unbelieving family or friends and that, as I said, as long as we do not actively partake in the religious rituals and services, we have the freedom to partake in the eating of such foods. Whether the foods be offered in a public or a private setting we are free to eat and drink such foods.

    What we do not have though, is the freedom to participate in such gatherings if our participation or our eating and drinking certain foods cause other believers who do not believe that they are free to partake of them, to be offended or to stumble or even affect those who believe that doing such a thing is sinful to them even though it is not truly sinful in a biblical sense.

    As we see, the two types of believers have a different level of knowledge, one, the so-called knowledgeable and strong Christian knows that eating these foods so is not sinful, yet the other, whom the Bible calls the weaker brother, has a different and weaker level of knowledge and believes it is sinful to him or her to partake in the eating or drinking of foods who were previously offered to idols.

    We can apply this concept to many things that occur in the church even today. For example, although drinking alcoholic beverages in Paul’s days was never sinful (only drunkenness is) yet today many, many believers truly believe that drinking alcoholic beverages even wine or beer is sinful and for that reason, they do not drink at all. There are even many pastors that teach that drinking is always wrong for a believer.

    This is erroneous, as we studied in the previous chapter drinking is sinful only when the drinking becomes drunkenness. As we said, if drinking was sinful the Bible would clearly say so and if it was then Jesus would have sinned, but we know that is not the case at all.

    Jesus never sinned, there is no sin in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4: 14-15; 1 Peter 1: 18-19. He could not have ever sinned, otherwise, Jesus could never have been the perfect sacrifice to forgive the sins of sinners.

    The same principle of foods and drinks can also be applied to the celebration of certain holidays. Some believers do not find anything wrong with celebrating certain Christian holidays such as Christmas, Easter, etc.

    Others on the other hand strongly feel, as some believers in Paul’s days felt about foods previously offered to idols, that celebrating so-called Christian holidays as those mentioned is the same thing, in other words sinful.

    Often the argument brought forth by Christians today regarding feasts is that they should not be celebrated because of their so-called connections to pagan practices and celebration of pagan days.

    Yet, as we see the principle is identical to the one Paul is delineating for us here and in our entire study of chapter 14 of Romans.

    Just because these festivities may have a connection to something connected to paganism such as the foods does not make it wrong to celebrate a day or a feast to the Lord It is not the same as making a false image of God and worshiping it, that would be sinful, but choosing a day to celebrate the real living God is not a sinful practice. It’s not as a Christian partakes on an actual pagan ritual or it’s not the same as what the Hebrews did in Exodus 32 when they made a golden calf to worship in clear violation of God’s commandment Exodus 20:3-6.

    It was not the celebration of the actual day that Aaron mentioned that was going to be a celebration to the Lord. Although for Israel God had chosen specific days in which they should have honored Him, the day in itself is not the cause of Israel’s idolatry, it’s the golden calf, that was the cause of the idolatry and the unseemly behavior of the people that was sinful.

    Exodus 32:4-8 And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” 5 So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.” 6 Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’

    So it is quite clear that in this episode the violation of God’s commandment given in Exodus 20 is not the declaration of the day that Aaron dedicates to the Lord but is the creation of the image of the golden calf and the fact that the people of God prostrated to it in adoration. If Aaron had told them that they would honor and celebrate the Lord in adoration the next day without having created a false image of God it would not have been a sin in violation of God’s commandment.

    Regarding this principle and situation as we see it is not a day dedicated to the true living God which is sinful but the transgression of the commandment of God that is. Thus we can apply the same principle to the so-called Christian feasts that many declare to be idolatrous and sinful, but that in reality are not, yet, for those who believe that they are sinful, even if they are not, for these believers, it is a violation of their conscience and we cannot condemn them harshly if they do not want to celebrate such holidays and we must not force them to participate in them. On the other hand, even those believers who do not want to participate in these festivities should not judge harshly those who participate in them.

    This is also what Paul divulges in chapter 14 concerning the observation of days.

    In the New Testament for example, even Jesus Himself taught the following fact regarding the observance of days and places in the service and worship to God :

    John 4:19-24 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

    As we see, place and method are no longer important in the New Testamentary way of worshiping, serving God. The essential things needed to worship, serve God are the new birth, the presence of God’s Spirit, the knowledge of Christ and belief in Him, without God’s life in a person that person cannot worship God in Spirit and truth. God’s Spirit is called the Spirit of truth, John 14:17;
    John 15:26; John 16:13; 1 John 4:6, must be therefore born again of the Spirit to be in the truth and know the truth. In addition, worshiping God in Spirit and in truth means to now the One who is the truth, Jesus, John 14:6; Revelation 19:11; John 1:14 and to know the truth and serve and worship God in perfect harmony with the truth of God’s word, which is truth John 8:31-32; John 17:17.

    Therefore the place, day or even the actual method to worship God before Christ has been basically abolished by the New Testament Covenant and even more by worshiping and serving God in and through Jesus Christ we no longer have to attain to ceremonial rules and regulations, not even days or festivals and yet observing them is not prohibited either as Paul is teaching us in Romans 14.

    The difference between what Paul says in this chapter regarding days and foods is a bit different yet it is connected to what he is also talking about in:

    Colossians 2:16-17 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

    He is teaching this speaking to Gentile believers who were being harassed by Jews who were trying to force them to observe the Law of Moses in addition to Jesus to be saved.

    In chapter 14 of Romans instead, he is mainly speaking mostly to Gentile believers about foods previously offered in pagan idol rituals and even the celebration of festivals, this perhaps was spoken to believers of Jewish origin.

    So what Paul is telling the Corinthian believers is also what he is talking about in Romans 14, that
    that mere eating and drinking of certain foods had nothing in them virtuous nor offensive, nothing that could make them better nor worse, pleasing nor displeasing to God: Meat commends us not to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we eat not are we the worse, verse 8 of 1 Corinthians 8.

    It looks as if some of the Corinthians made it merit of their eating what had been offered to idols, and doing it in their very temples too (verse. 10), because it plainly showed that they thought the idols were nothing.

    However, eating and drinking are in themselves indifferent actions and it matters little what we eat or drink. What goes into the man of this sort neither purifies nor defiles as even Jesus had said,
    Matthew 15:11. Therefore the meats offered to idols may in itself be as proper for food as any other; and the eating of it or forbearing to eat has no virtue in it at all.

    Note, that it is a gross error to think that distinction of foods will make any distinction between men in God’s account. Eating one food, and forbearing another has nothing in them to recommend a person to God.

    The moral of all this argument is the following, that Paul is teaching, both in the verse we are studying Romans 14:15 and what he is explaining in 1 Corinthians 8, that we must be cautious against abusing their and our liberty, the liberty they thought they had and we think we have in this matter. For many even then mistook this matter, because they were to have no allowance to sit to eat in the idol’s temple, and this seems plain from 1 Corinthians 10:20. However, Paul maintains that, having understood this, the foods offered to idols in other places did not have such power and therefore they had to be cautious as how they used them; why? Not because they were sinful in themselves or because they could somehow contaminate those who ate them, but because instead they could be an obstacle for weaker believers.

    Their liberty, the knowledge that they could eat a foods previously offered to idols and resold or taken in a home and presented in private meal might have become an occasion first of them falling into idolatrous practices by partaking in the rituals thinking they had liberty to partake in them or perhaps risking to make others fall away from an interest in Christianity and moving again to heathenism. “If a man see one who hast knowledge has superior understanding to his own and concedes that if one has liberty to sit and eat meat, or feast, in an idol’s temple, because they consider an idol nothing then the one who is less thoroughly informed in this matter, and thinks an idol is something, could become emboldened to eat what was offered to the idol, not as common food, but as a sacrifice, and thereby become guilty of idolatry”

    In such a case one should be careful of laying before their weaker brethren any occasion of falling, whatever liberty or power they might have.

    The apostle backs up this warning with two considerations:

    The first one is the danger that might accrue to weaker brethren, those weak brethren for whom Christ died. We must, therefore, deny ourselves even in what is lawful for us rather than become an occasion of their stumbling, and endanger their Christian walk. It is not befitting that through our better knowledge of these things we allow the weaker brother to be destroyed, the one for whom Christ died as well.

    Those whom Christ has redeemed with his most precious blood should be very precious and dear to us as well. If He had such compassion as to die for them, that they might not perish, we should have so much compassion for them as well and deny ourselves, for their sake. We must not use our liberty to their hurt, to be an occasion for their stumbling, or be a hazard to them.

    What does all this mean in practical terms? Let me give you a practical example.

    As we said before, we have the freedom to drink alcoholic beverages and that this is not a sin unless we indulge in drunkenness. Let’s now assume we are at a Christian gathering and there are people there who believe, erroneously, yet they believe, that drinking is always wrong and it is sinful and we know this about them.

    So at this gathering, perhaps held at our house or at a restaurant we, knowing we have full liberty to drink let’s say wine, we drink it in their presence. Let’s assume that later on one of these weaker believers or even better, let’s also assume there could be in our midst a brother or sister that once had a problem with drinking and now they quit drinking altogether.

    Now we can insist that we have the liberty to drink wine and we do, but the question, in this case, is, should I demand to have this liberty in such a situation?

    Paul is saying no! We do not have that liberty in that case! While we have the liberty to drink and we know we do, we do not have the liberty to be of temptation to others who do not believe they have the same liberty or those who could violate their consciences as would happen in the event they would begin to drink again and even make them fall into sinful habit again. We cannot use our liberty to make others violate their consciences even by thinking that if it’s allowed for us to drink then it must be for them as well. Yet they, being not fully convinced in their conscience, they violate it and they end up sinning.

    Also although everyone is responsible for their actions, we cannot place ourselves in the place of being the reason why others may violate their consciences or that they may start doing something that may destroy or harm their Christian walk.

    What if the brother that had a drinking problem, tempted by our freedom, begins to drink again thinking that now it’s OK for them to do as well. They were encouraged by our liberty, suddenly fall back into having a drinking problem.

    In that case, we would have used our liberty to do what is lawful for us but making it an unlawful thing for someone else that we had no care or concern about.

    We must at all costs be able to lay aside our freedom and liberty in such a way that we do not cause others to sin and to fall into a sinful behavior that may end up destroying their life.

    A believer that has very little of the spirit of the Redeemer who had rather his brother should be harmed or destroyed has abused his liberty in any respect. If we have the Spirit of Christ we will love those whom Christ loved and die for, and we will study to promote their spiritual welfare. We will, therefore, shun everything that would unnecessarily grieve them, and much more everything that would be likely to occasion their stumbling, or falling into sin and destroying their lives.
    We should always respect other believers’ weaknesses in their knowledge compared to ours. Some cases are not as detrimental and dangerous as drinking alcohol for a person who does not, yet they have the potential to be as dangerous.

    The very thing Paul is warning in his writing using the example of meats offered to idols has the same meaning as the example we made with the drinking example.

    We should not be the cause of other believers’ falling into sin and the cause of them violating their consciences as well.

    The destruction Paul speaks about regarding our brothers and sisters is not specifically eternal but it is temporal destruction.

    Think about what could happen if we led another believer into alcoholism not purposefully. Yet if we were the cause of it because we demanded our liberty in drinking alcohol in their presence without caring to take into consideration the weakness of the brother. We know that alcoholism can cause the actual destruction of a person’s health both physical as well as spiritual, could destroy the person’s financial well being and almost always destroys the person’s relationships with his family and other believers as well. The same is true if, even in Paul’s day they could cause other believers to fall into idolatry again and to continue in practices that would become spiritually detrimental to them. Besides, they could have also caused other believers to violate their conscience if they enticed them to partake of something that they perceived as sinful even if it was not inherently sinful.

    For example it would not be right to force or coerce another believer to partake in the celebration of a particular day or holiday such as Christmas or other ones, because even though Paul says it would not and is not sinful to do so, yet for some believers, in their consciences it is wrong and therefore partaking in such a celebration would cause them to violate their consciences and in their mind to sin against God.

    The hurt done to other believers Christ takes as done to Himself: When we sin against the weaker brethren and wound their consciences, we sin against Christ. Injuries we cause to other Christians are injuries to Christ, especially to babes in Christ, to weaker Christians; and most of all, involving them in guilt: wounding their consciences is also wounding Him. Jesus has a particular care of His lambs and His flock: He gathers them in his arm and carries them in his bosom, Isaiah 40:11.

    Strong Christians should be very careful to avoid what will offend weak ones, or lay a stumbling-block in their way. We should not be devoid of compassion for those to whom Christ has shown so much love. Shall we sin against Christ who loved us all and suffered for all of us? Shall we set ourselves to defeat His gracious design and help to ruin those whom he died to save?

    God has a very stern warning and message for pastors and stronger believers as well. We find this warning in:

    Ezekiel 34:1-4 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.

    To the stronger believers also God says:

    Ezekiel 34:17-22 And as for you, O My flock, thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats. 18 Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture–and to have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet? 19 And as for My flock, they eat what you have trampled with your feet, and they drink what you have fouled with your feet.” 20’Therefore thus says the Lord GOD to them: “Behold, I Myself will judge between the fat and the lean sheep. 21 Because you have pushed with side and shoulder, butted all the weak ones with your horns, and scattered them abroad, 22 therefore I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

    Therefore we see that God is very angry and displeased with pastors and even other believers, especially those who consider themselves stronger and more spiritually instructed and mature when they mistreat and offend and cause damage to the weaker ones.

    Paul also makes a very good point of this issue and principle in Romans 15:1-2 where he says:

    Romans 15:1-2 We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.

    When we cause other believers to sin or even violate their consciences we are no longer walking in love, there is no excuse whatsoever we cannot justify any action that damages other believers’ lives and walk.

    We always ought to use our liberty in Christ to love and serve each other in love and not use the liberty we have to fulfill the lust of the flesh or to harm others in any way.

    Galatians 5:13-15 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

    Romans 14:16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil;

    Paul is saying that because Christians are forgiven for all their sins but we ought not to ever use our liberty in Christ to actually live in a sinful manner. This is made obviously clear by Paul himself in Romans 6.

    Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

    Romans 6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!

    Peter also chimed in regarding the same issue when he exhorted us like this:

    1 Peter 2:15-17 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men– 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

    We should never use God’s grace, in other words, the good that God has done for us by forgiving all our trespasses, the good God has deposited in us to do ought to be just that, good. We ought never to use the freedom and liberty we have as a way to harm anyone even if we do not intend to do so.

    One may ask now how can we be held accountable for doing something unintentionally? Because God does not justify our carelessness in how we ought to treat and behave toward other believers.

    If indeed we consider ourselves the more spiritually mature and knowledgeable then we must act like it. We need to be instructed about these things and we must never do things in our freedom to do them to harm others and to allow others, especially those from outside the church to speak evil about our liberty in Christ.

    This is what Paul is saying here. It is more than evident from the entire New Testament writings that we are not free to sin and to live in sin. We are not in liberty to sin that is clear, even though we are forgiven we are not free to continue in sin.

    However, here in chapter 14 of Romans Paul is talking about things that are not sinful and that we have the freedom to practice and to do or even not to do if we think that not doing them pleases God.

    The impression we have by Paul’s writing in this chapter is that, regarding things that are not sinful, foods, drinks, days, festivals etc. that God honors either behavior when it is devoted and dedicated and offered to God. In other words our liberty to eat all foods, drink or observe and celebrate days unto the Lord or the liberty to abstain from all of the above in the name of the Lord are both pleasing to God when they are offered to Him in Jesus name.

    This is also what Paul already said previously:

    Romans 14:6-8 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

    Yet, when it comes to these things we are indeed free, yet we are not free to use this liberty to harm others in any way.

    If and when we do we are not walking in love any longer and our liberty becomes sin and it becomes, yes, evil. So if we use our liberty to harm others can and will rightly call our good evil. Because indeed our good intentions will become harm and they will be rightly considered evil.

    Trust me, the world loves nothing more than find anything and everything that can give Christians a bad name. However, when we cause that to be true, in other words when the world sees that we use our good to harm and rightly call out our actions as evil, then we are not only sinning against our brothers and sisters and consequently against God but we are indeed giving a bad Christian witness to the world and with this we are tarnishing our faith, God’s name and reputation.

    This sadly happens way too many times in the church. The Christian is called to be a good witness to those who are outside the church.

    1 Timothy 3:7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

    Even though this particular passage refers to elders and those in governance of the church, yet this is also extended to all believers. In 1 Timothy 3, we find the qualifications of elders and deacons described and this above verse is part of that description. Yet, to think that these requirements are only for elders and deacons is also not completely true.

    Although these are definite requirements for the qualification of elders and deacons in the church, in other words, these things must be present in all elders and deacons without exception; yet, all Christians must strive to be like this.

    These requirements are a must in choosing the elders and deacons and yet these are goals for all believers. It is a mistake to think that only leaders in the church are required to be like that. Certainly, the elders/pastors and deacons are the examples for the rest of the church and all believers must look to them as examples of how to be.

    Too many Christians believe that the requirements in 1 Timothy 3 are only for the elders and deacons and that they are not required to strive to be like that as well.

    This indeed is a big error and it is also the actual job of the pastors/elders to teach the congregation that even all Christians are required to become as their pastors/elders are.

    Way too many times sadly churches ordain elders/pastors and deacons that are lacking in these requirements. What this does it, it lowers everyone’s expectations. If the pastor/elders and deacons are not held to these standards then how in the world could you hold other believers to Christian standards?

    Pastors ought to lead by example yet they ought to teach the church that every believer must strive to be like they are required to be as well.

    However, that being of good Christian witness to those outside the church is for all Christians is also evident from other Scripture passages.

    Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

    2 Corinthians 8:21 providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.

    Colossians 4:5-6 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

    1 Thessalonians 4:12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.

    As we see all Christians are called to be good witnesses to those outside the church.

    We ought not ever allow God, His word, our faith to be slandered or called evil because we are behaving in an evil way.

    Scripture is clear of this very fact as well:

    Romans 2:23-24 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? 24 For “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.

    This passage although written to describe Jews’ sinful behavior as a cause for the Gentiles to blaspheme God’s name, is a warning for Christians as well. We ought not to act in a sinful manner, not just entirely because we should not sin and offend God ourselves but to also disallow unbelievers to blaspheme God’s name and our faith.

    This is also commanded to a variety of categories of believers in the church:

    1 Timothy 5:14 Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

    Young widows are commanded to live in such a way that there can be no reproachful speech about them and their faith outside the church.

    1 Timothy 6:1 Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.

    Servants are commanded to honor their masters so that God’s name and word not be blasphemed.

    Titus 2:1-10 But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: 2 that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; 3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things– 4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. 6 Likewise exhort the young men to be sober-minded, 7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, 8 sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. 9 Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.

    Here in Titus two, the same commandment is given to just about everyone. Paul starts with older women teaching younger women how to live in a God-honoring way so that both, older and younger women avoid to have the word of God blasphemed. Young men as well to live godly so that they could not be condemned and there be no evil to be said about them. Again Paul commands servants to be obedient to and honor and be faithful to their masters once again so that they could honor God’s doctrine, God’s word and by consequences His name.

    Even Paul says this about ministry when he says:

    2 Corinthians 6:3 We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed.

    Paul wants to avoid causes of offense in the same context as he is explaining in Romans 14. Paul does not want anyone to disqualify or criticize God’s ministry and ministers by being a cause of offense to others.

    What Paul is not at all saying is that he would compromise the Gospel or the word of God in any way. This is not what he meant at all. Paul said the following on another occasion so that we do not misunderstand in any way what the previous passage means:

    Galatians 1:9-10 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

    Paul never said that he would water down, compromise, change, alter or withhold the word of God in any way, in fact in the previous passage he makes it very clear that he would never do such a thing. He as well as Jesus never compromised God’s word, they always gave it straight as it should be. They never thought to not give God’s word as it had to be given, preached and taught. So Paul is not saying that he would not preach in such a way as not to offend people. He is simply stating that we ought not to do or say anything offensive in other words in a sinful way.

    It is not sinful or offensive to preach the Gospel uncompromisingly, it is never sinful to teach God’s truth. If the Gospel and God’s word offends people so be it. No one, not Jesus, not John the Baptist not Paul, not Peter, not anyone ever worried that God’s word could be offensive to people. Neither should we.

    Sadly, too many pastors teach and many Christians believe that the Gospel and the word of God somehow must be modified or altered to be sure that they would not become the cause of offending anyone. All this is compromising and watering down the Gospel and the word of God. Often, if not always, this causes God’s word to become less effective because it ceases to be God’s word.

    Paul is not talking about compromising, altering or watering down the Gospel or the word of God; such a thing should never be done. We must remember that altering, changing, softening and compromising God’s word, in the end, becomes preaching and teaching false doctrine and it becomes dishonoring to God.

    We must never have the audacity to change or diminish God’s word, and we must remember what God ironically says in His word about His word:

    Isaiah 55:11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

    If God’s word offends someone so be it; that it is not our problem. Once again, what Paul said about not being offensive is not meant to be about God’s word; it’s about not being the cause of sin in others or being in a situation where others may see our faith or ministry as a cause of stumbling for others.

    Therefore, as we see, it is a commandment of God’s word to all believers not to commit evil; instead, we ought to live godly so that God’s name and His word and our faith could not be blasphemed and spoken evil of.

    We must never allow our freedom in Christ to become an opportunity for making other believers stumble. We must never allow the goodness and the grace of God to become something others view as an excuse to blaspheme God’s name and His word.

    We are called to be our brothers and sisters keepers in spite of what too many think. Many believers think that they are responsible only for themselves but in reality as believers we are called to consider others above ourselves, 1 Corinthians 10:24; Philippians 2:1-4.

    We are called to love one another in truth and deed, not with words only:

    1 John 3:16-18 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

    Romans 14:17-18 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.

    Paul makes a very important statement that encompasses all that has been said until now. The kingdom of God, the church, Christian living, has nothing to do with foods or drink or days and feasts.

    The Christian life is made of other things. What matters in the Christians ‘ life are spiritual matters and not physical things such as the things mentioned so far in this chapter. Paul is saying that what counts in the life of the church is the life and the fruit of the Spirit.

    That is all that matters in the church. The Scriptures are clear on this subject as indeed in other NT passages this subject is also clearly mentioned.

    Ephesians 5:8-9 For you where once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth),

    As Paul said above, it is the fruit of the Spirit that must be practiced and that is the important and the essential thing in the church.

    Galatians 5:22-26 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

    As we see, there is no law against the life of the Spirit and the practice of its fruit. This means that when we walk in the Spirit, as Paul says, we do not walk in the flesh therefore we love our neighbor, we love our brothers and sisters; in doing this we do nothing to harm them but we only do them good.

    That is exactly what Paul and other NT writers are saying, when we do good we fulfill the law, when we love we fulfill the law because we only do what is good and we avoid what is bad.

    Galatians 5:16-19 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

    Even James says exactly the same thing as Paul does:

    James 2:8-13 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

    Yes the law of God is fulfilled by Christ in our behalf, see Romans 8:2-4, but it is also fulfilled by us as those who must still, as we read, walk in the Spirit and therefore in God’s love, so, as love is the fulfillment of God’s law it is also the very first thing listed in the fruit of the Spirit passage written in Galatians 5.

    Therefore to fulfill the law of God we must be born again of the Spirit because it is the life of the Spirit of God that has delivered us from sin and death and the consequences of not being able to keep the law of God as God requires.

    Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

    The Holy Spirit gives us spiritual life and the life of Christ in us sets us free from the consequences of disobeying God’s law, which thing is called sin.

    Therefore, we know that the Holy Spirit gives us the desire and the ability to obey God’s will. Because of this fact, we do not incur the eternal consequences of our sinfulness. All this leads us to understand that we need the Spirit’s life to be in us because we need His life to live eternally and to do God’s will.

    Jesus said this to the Samaritan woman and to us as well:

    John 4:21-24 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

    God always desired that we live this way. God’s way has always been salvation by faith and by grace. God always wanted His people to obey Him because they loved Him and not out of religious compulsion nor to keep His law to earn salvation and the forgiveness of sins. Love was and is always the motivating factor that God required and requires.

    In fact, in Deuteronomy 6, God makes very clear the motivation of keeping His law.

    Deuteronomy 6:4-6 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.

    Jesus confirmed this as well:

    Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, ” ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

    Loving God and loving others as ourselves was always the basis of God’s law. The new commandment that Jesus gave us in the NT, in reality, is new only because the Covenant is new, and because now we can love God because He first loved us through the cross and Jesus’ sacrifice.

    1 John 4:19-21 We love Him because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

    It is very interesting that in the previous passage John says that we love God because He first loved us and He did this with a perfect love through Christ. However, what is interesting is that John connects in the same context, of God loving us and us Him, that when and if we love God and understand God’s perfect love, we will also love our brothers and sisters in Christ as well. So if we claim to love God we must love our brothers and sisters and well. It’s not enough to say it we must practice it ad practice it God’s way. In fact, in the next chapter John says:

    1 John 5:1-3 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

    Living and walking in the Holy Spirit is the same as walking in love and as we walk in love we obey God’s commandments. Love is the first thing mentioned in the fruit of the Spirit. Love does nothing to harm and hurt others. This is the actual point that Paul is making in Romans 14 when he speaks regarding life in the church which is not about foods or drinks or celebration of days. Instead, it is about living and loving others through the life of the Holy Spirit which is in us.

    We have to do everything in love for God, love for others and even for ourselves. Life in the Spirit is what God requires from us and not eating or abstaining from foods and drinks, or the observing or not of days and feasts; especially if any of these would cause harm, hurt, or place obstacles and sin before others.

    The New Testamentary Scripture calls us to live in a certain way and this is an example of what God wants us to be like with one another:

    Ephesians 5:17-21 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.

    This is what it means to walk in the Spirit and this is what God wants from us. In fact, Paul continues this verse in Romans by saying that when we live in such way (Romans 14:18)

    For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.

    We serve Christ in this way. This is the acceptable behavior we ought to have as Christians. When we do this, and when we live in this manner, we are not only living in an acceptable way to God, but we will also be approved by men.

    By most accounts, the majority of people, even outside the church, will consider us acceptable when we live as God desires.

    In Proverbs there is a verse that says this:

    Proverbs 16:7 When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

    This verse can raise questions and even some doubts regarding the meaning of what all this means.

    Usually, we know that the believers’ enemies don’t generally care whether our ways are pleasing to the Lord or not; normally our enemies will continue to be our enemies anyway and it becomes difficult to believe that there could be peace between us just because we live in a pleasing way to God.

    Yet, the word of God obviously cannot contradict itself, therefore we must arrive at the proper conclusion regarding this verse. How could our enemies be at peace with us just because our ways are pleasing to God?

    Usually, God’s people’s enemies always seek to be our enemies and not be at peace with us. 

    God has the power to turn our foes into friends when it pleases Him and even more when we please Him. He is the One who holds the hearts of men in His hand and has access to all men’s spirits and has power over them. God works irresistibly upon said hearts and spirits, therefore He can make a man’s enemies be at peace with Him as well as us. 

    God is God and has the power to change minds and even force men into submission. God can slay all His and our enemies, but He also can bring them together that were at a greater distance from each other. He will do it for us when we please Him. If we make it our care to be reconciled to God, and to keep ourselves in His love, He will incline those that have been envious towards us, and vexatious to us, to entertain a good opinion of us and to become our friends. God made Esau to be at peace with Jacob, Abimelech at peace with Isaac, and David’s enemies ended up courting his favor and desiring to make a league with Israel.

    The image of God appearing on the righteous, and His particular loving-kindness toward them, is enough to recommend them to have the respect of all men, even of those that have been our worse enemies.

    Sadly, this is not always the case. We have seen and we see even today that as a society and a culture becomes more and more pagan and Antichrist, believers are greatly mistreated and persecuted. Yet, even in those cases God often turns some of our enemies into friends.

    Often, when God does this, the persons who were our enemies become our friends and become believers as well.

    God has done this in many cases. Sometimes, sadly, our enemies will be those of our household. Scripture warns us about this fact in several places.

    Micah 7:5-7 Do not trust in a friend; Do not put your confidence in a companion; Guard the doors of your mouth From her who lies in your bosom. 6 For son dishonors father, Daughter rises against her mother, Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; A man’s enemies are the men of his household. 7 Therefore I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me. 

    There were, are and will be times in which believers will have to be very, very careful who they can trust. Some times it will be so terrible for believers that they will not be able to rely on and trust their family members. The final part of the previous passage shows us who we can and must trust in those times. We must look to the Lord and wait upon Him and He will indeed hear us.

    Jesus also warned us:

    Matthew 10:34-37 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’

    In the dangerous days preceding the Lord’s return, Jesus warned us again about this fact:

    Matthew 24:9-12 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

    I know that it is very sad for us to think that our family members and friends could become our enemies and it is very easy for us to compromise our walk with God to try and keep the peace with them at all costs. Yet, Jesus warned us that He did not come to bring peace but a sword. In the same context of the passage we read before, Jesus in that passage also said:

    Matthew 10:37-39 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

    We must consider the price we need to pay to follow Christ and do God’s will and that is also being willing to lose our family and friends for the sake of loving Christ.

    However, even if our family or friends become our enemies for Christ’s sake we must be willing to endure this. Look at what it says in the book of Hebrews:

    Hebrews 11:24-28 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.

    As we see, we must be willing to be as Moses was. Moses counted the reproach of Christ greater than his position as Pharaoh’s son. Like Moses, we must be willing to lose our family status and lose everything and everyone for the sake of Christ.

    All this to say that because of our love for Christ our loved ones can become our enemies at any given time but we cannot see this as a contradiction of what the word of God is saying in the verse we are studying, in other words, that if we please God we will be acceptable to men.

    This is not a contradiction, however, we must also understand that in a lot of cases God will make us acceptable to men when we please Him. God can turn our loved ones into our enemies because of our love for Him, yet He can also change that again.

    Look at Joseph’s story.

    His brothers hated him! Literally hated him! They planned to kill him, then they opted to sell him into slavery to get rid of him. They did not love him nor did they love their father enough, they knew Jacob loved Joseph very much, perhaps more than them. Their envy and jealousy turned into hatred and they did not care if they deeply hurt their father with their actions.

    Yet God turned their hatred into conviction and then repentance and in the end love. This is what God can and often will do.

    Our enemies may often be the people who should love us instead. It is also possible that God will change that. We must, however, as Joseph did, remain faithful to God and He will make us acceptable to men even when they prove to be our enemies.

    People may hate us from the beginning just because we love and serve God. Remember, all people at one point belong to Satan and hate God and all that stands for God. At the very best they will be indifferent to God and His people and yet when they must decide when placed under pressure, whether to like God’s people or not, they will end up choosing to hate us.

    Yet, God can change all that, because it is only God that is sovereign over mankind and God can override man’s so-called free will. Man indeed may have some semblance of free will but God can and often does override man’s will and decisions to bring about His perfect will.

    Many believers have made human free will more powerful than God Himself if that were even possible. It’s not possible at all! Men erroneously think that because they have the freedom of choice regarding many things that for some uncanny reason God is obligated to submit to man’s will and man’s decisions. This could not be further from the truth!

    God is almighty and He can and does more often than not, overrule every decision man can make.

    As a manner of fact, even though God allows many human decisions without blocking them at the inception, He can bend and change all the events surrounding those decisions to make His decisions and His will stand.

    Once again we need not look any further than Joseph’s life. God had a plan, even though from the human perspective one could think that Joseph’s brothers may have with their decisions undo God’s plan they did not at all. God used every human decision to bring to pass His plan.

    We see that Joseph understood God’s plan, probably always understood it even when things were not seemingly going well for Him. God is faithful if He promises something He will do it. He showed Joseph His plan for his life in dreams and Joseph believed God. Joseph also honored God by not sinning against him when tempted by Potiphar’s wife.

    For that reason, he got falsely accused and thrown in jail and yet the Scriptures say that Joseph always found favor with God and man, why? Because, first of all, God designed a plan in which Joseph was going to be the main protagonist, secondly because it was God’s plan it would come to pass for sure. Thirdly, because Joseph’s life and his ways pleased God, God gave him favor with men, even those who had been hostile to him.

    Joseph said this to his brothers after they repented of the hatred they had for him :

    Genesis 50:19-20 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

    Men might mean things for evil but God has the power to turn bad things, bad decisions, evil plans into good and bring Hid plan to fruition.

    I believe that Joseph had faith in God, he knew that God is faithful, he knew that God would work things to his good. He just did not know how or when, yet I believe Joseph trusted God and waited on Him even when things did not seem like they would work out as he thought they should work out.

    Joseph believes in the principle of which Paul wrote in the book of Romans in chapter eight.

    Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

    Joseph loved God and was called according to God’s purpose, therefore he knew that all things would work together for good. God says to us that all things, not some, not only the good things, but all things will work together for good. Together is the keyword, it is God’s power and sovereignty that bind and mingle and work His purposes with all other things, all other decisions and make them work for good for His children. This is why we should always trust God in every circumstance and never doubt that He will turn them for our good even when they don’t seem to be so. I wish we did know this and even more believe it.

    This passage also can be paralleled with this one:

    Proverbs 3:5-8 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;

    6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. 8 It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.

    When people ask me what it means or how we trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not upon our understanding and acknowledge Him in all our ways and He will direct our steps, I tell them about Joseph’s story and I tell them about Romans 8:28 because the two make up this last one.

    In fact, even though many believers only cite verses five and six but they do not consider verses seven and eight as being essential to the results that verses five and six states.

    Joseph not only trusted in the Lord with all his heart, not only he did not lean on his limited human understanding regarding what was happening to him, not only did he acknowledge God in all he did, not only God directed his steps. God, in fact, directed his steps into many things that Joseph did not understand with his human understanding. You see, we think that we always have to understand how God is directing our steps but it’s not so. Our job is to trust God not understand how He is directing us. Our job is to acknowledge Him in all we do, in other words, obey Him. Joseph knew as Paul says we ought to know that all things will work together for our good even when we can’t understand how they will. However, as we were saying verse seven is part of the equation, in other words not to be wise in our own eyes but to fear the Lord and to depart from evil.

    Joseph always feared God and he departed from evil; that is what he did:

    Genesis 39:7-9 And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. 9 There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

    As we see here Joseph was not wise in his own eyes, feared God and departed from evil and allowed God to be in charge of the consequences of his obedience and work all things out for him, even though he ended up in jail.

    Joseph lived out Proverbs 3:5-8 and Romans 8:28.

    As we see God can and will impose His will upon man’s will and man’s decisions. Man’s will isn’t free to the extent that many think it is, man’s will is not free from being modified and overridden by God to bring about His established plans.

    This certainly means that if our ways are pleasing to God He will make us acceptable to others, even our enemies. Serving Christ we are acceptable to God and approved by man.

    Romans 14:19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.

    Paul is exhorting us here to practice two fundamental things we must practice in the church. We must first of all endeavor in always being at peace with each other. This does not mean that to be at peace with each other means to compromise with sinfulness, false doctrines, worldliness, and carnality. Not at all! These things must always be confronted and dealt with, Scripture is plentiful in exhortation and even commandments that forbid these things to be practiced in the church. We should never make peace with things God prohibits us to do, never!

    Being at peace with each other is not peace at all costs! We must, however, have a meek and peaceful demeanor with each other even when we confront the above-mentioned things in the life of the believers and the church.

    Paul encourages even church pastors/elders to act peacefully and gently when correcting believers and confronting sin in their lives.

    2 Timothy 2:22-26 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

    As we see Paul, writing to Timothy, who is the overseer of the church in Ephesus, exhorts him, first of all to flee youthful lusts and instead pursue righteousness, faith, love and here is the word we are looking at, peace with those who call on the name of the Lord with a pure heart. This passage is important to understand properly. As we see Paul exhorts Timothy, who is a fairly young man, we know this from the following passage:

    1 Timothy 4:11-13 These things command and teach. 12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

    Timothy was ordained as an elder and overseer of the Ephesian church by Paul himself. Paul tells him to command and teach the things that he learned from Paul and then Paul tells him not to let anyone despise the fact that he was a young man in charge of this great responsibility, he also exhorts Timothy to be an example instead to the church, in his words, conduct, in his love, in acting spiritual and not carnal, in faith and purity and to attend to the reading, exhortation, and sound doctrine.

    So as we see, in these two passages, Paul is exhorting and commanding Timothy to be an example of faith and righteousness to the church, he commands him to maintain peace with the believers.

    As we see, maintaining peace with other believers does not mean at all compromising with sinfulness, carnality or worldliness in the church, rather these things must be confronted in the church. Yet Paul tells him that keeping the peace in the church and among believers means to avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.

    Things that are not the Lord’s or the Apostles’ doctrines must be avoided if they can and will generate strife, friction, and arguments. In reality, this is exactly the context of this entire chapter 14 of Romans. The things Paul mentions in chapter 14 are indeed things we should never engage in and allow them to become subjects of strife and contention in the church.

    Paul had mentioned this concept in other of his writings as well:

    1 Timothy 4:7; 1 Timothy 6:3-6; 2 Timothy 2:14; Titus 3:9.

    Therefore it is imperative that besides sound doctrine, as we said, we keep the peace in the church at all costs without compromising truth and doctrine.

    Let’s remember that peace is the fruit of the Spirit and God delights in His children having peace and being in peace with each other.

    Let’s also remember that the Holy Spirit calls us to unity and peace with each other so we must within the truth of the sound doctrine of the word of God be united and in peace with each other.

    It is the job of the pastors/elders to reconcile and unite believers in sound doctrine. By teaching and training in the word of God the pastors/elders, the believers must be brought to have the same mind, the mind of Christ. This is indeed what Paul speaks of in chapter 4 of Ephesians and also exhorting believers to be of the same mind also in Philippians 2:1-4.

    These are essential exhortations and essential duties of the pastors/elders in the church.

    Ephesians 4:1-3 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

    These are the opening verses of Ephesians 4 and they are really important by themselves but even in the context of the rest of the chapter. As we see Paul states almost using the same language he used in Philippians 2:1-4. However, here in Ephesians 4:3 he says endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

    Let me explain what this actually means. The Holy Spirit unites us to Christ and to one another, He does this with a bond that spiritually cannot be severed. The Holy Spirit is said to seal us for the day of redemption. This seal is God’s seal and it cannot be broken by anyone.

    2 Corinthians 1:21-22 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, 22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

    Ephesians 1:13-14 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

    And in fact Paul concludes Ephesians chapter 4 saying:

    Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

    In this last passage, we see that Paul commands us not to grieve the Holy Spirit and that through Him we are sealed with an unbreakable bond. Yet even though we cannot be ever separated from God and one another spiritually, we can still grieve the Holy Spirit and obviously by the context of the chapter we begin to understand what grieves the Holy Spirit. For us to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace we must not grieve the Holy Spirit.

    Even though the bond we have with God and one another in reality cannot be broken but the actual unity and fellowship with God and with one another can be negatively affected by us behaving in such a way to grieve the Holy Spirit and this does happen when we mistreat each other or when we are not at peace with each other.

    In the entire chapter 4 of Ephesians, we understand clearly what we must do and not do in the body of Christ toward each other.

    Let’s quickly look at how we maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of being at peace with each other.

    Paul begins the chapter by giving us an initial exhortation which helps us to keep peace in the church:

    Ephesians 4:1-2 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,

    This is how we begin to keep the peace with each other.

    Next Paul brings up the responsibilities of the church leaders in endeavoring to keep the peace in the body of Christ besides other essential things needed in the church:

    Ephesians 4:11-16 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ– 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

    Rest assured that this central theme in Ephesians 4 is a big reason why there is or isn’t peace among believers. It is everyone’s responsibility in the body of Christ to maintain unity by being at peace with each other.

    As I said before though, we ought never to compromise the truth in the name of love or peace at all costs.

    As we said before during the study of Romans love in the body of Christ can never be practiced outside the truth of God’s word. Also, the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth, John 14:17; John 15:26; John 16:13. Therefore, in any event, we do anything at all outside the truth or against the truth of God’s word, which is also the truth, John 17:17; we grieve the Holy Spirit and we damage the bond of peace we ought to have. Let’s remember that God indeed is love, 1 John 4:8 and 1 John 4:16; however, God’s love is only and always united with truth and must be practiced in God’s truth, because God is also truth, John 1:14-17; John 14:6; 1 John 5:20. Also, Paul, when he describes the qualities of the love God wants us to have, says this:

    1 Corinthians 13:6 (love) does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;

    As we see, love when practiced God’s way is practiced in the truth of God’s love and never by compromising God’s word which is the truth and by not grieving the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of truth.

    This is another reason why in the church we must never, ever do anything that transgresses the word of God and why everything we do must be motivated by love for God and one another.

    There is a subject that unfortunately always comes to mind most often and that was brought up by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians in the 12th through the 14th chapter he wrote these chapters to correct the unseemly behavior of many of the Corinthian believers.

    Their actions were selfish and exhibited carnality, actually, they were sinful and their behavior was motivated by spiritual pride rather than love for other believers. Rather than using their spiritual gifts to edify each other, they wanted to use them and even fake some of them in order to seem more spiritual and to appear to have the more showy gifts in order to be considered more spiritual than others or equal to some others. Paul condemns this behavior and he explains to them that any gift of the Spirit in the church is given only for the edification of others and not our own self-edification.

    Specifically addressing the gift of speaking in other or better foreign tongues Paul lays down rules in the church as to how and when this gift should be practiced and that having control over this gift was proof of practicing the gift in love and for the good of others and not in a selfish and prideful manner.

    Paul reminds the Corinthian church that the commandments and rules he is giving the church are God’s commandments and not just friendly suggestions.

    1 Corinthians 14:32-37 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 34 Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church. 36 Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? 37 If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.

    Therefore, we see that we ought not to ever seek peace at the cost of compromising the truth because as we have seen that is never acceptable. God’s love must be practiced in truth and conformity with the truth of His Word, we have seen that love rejoices in the truth and not in sinfulness. Disobeying God’s word, as even Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 14, by dishonoring God’s order and processes in the assembly’s behavior is not ever acceptable and it is indeed sinful.

    When we operate in love and truth we obey God’s word, that is exactly what Paul is saying through chapters 12, 13 and 14 of 1 Corinthians. This is also what John says very clearly in:

    1 John 5:1-3 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

    God’s word is clear when we love God, we also love all those who are born of Him. We know that we love other believers when we love God by obeying His commandments. If and when God claims that we ought to do something or not do something then we must obey and in so doing we are demonstrating love for God and other believers.

    In conclusion, God commanded the believers back in Paul’s days and how much more to believers today, to refrain from speaking in foreign languages and especially to refrain from counterfeiting them to appear more spiritual in the meetings of the church. This was to be obeyed except there was a translation of what was being said and even so, they must have done this in an orderly fashion and one at time and three at the most and must each take their turn:

    1 Corinthians 14:26-29 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.

    These commandments given by Paul were given through his apostolic authority which was conferred to him by God and the fact as Paul stated that what he wrote were commandments of God, not just his, is a very important issue even for believers today.
    Today in a lot of churches these commandments are being ignored and disobeyed and the sin of those who ignore them is openly justified by twisting and compromising God’s word to make it fit a narrative in order that this practice, so-called speaking in tongues, (which has ceased since Paul’s letter), can be done in disobedience to God’s word itself.

    As we see in the previous passage we read, everything in the church must be done for the edification of the body and all that is done to do so must be motivated by love which we have seen cannot be really practiced as God desires unless it is practiced in conformity and obedience to God’s truth.

    If all this is not done it will not just be difficult to keep the bond of peace between believers it will be practically impossible.

    Peace in the church and between believers is essential and God desires it and so should we.

    Therefore, we ought not to ever be in situations where we compromise the truth in the name of love and unity, so the peace we ought to seek is not at all costs, it must be sought within the truth and love of God not outside of them or in spite of them.

    There are many things we can and should avoid that can be causes of conflict and enemies of the peace we ought to have in the church and we have seen already what many of these are. We know though that sadly many in the church think and believe that sound doctrine is to be avoided if and when it causes strife.

    That’s a huge error! As we said before and other times, God’s word is never a cause of strife. If it is ever perceived as such it is only because the people in whim it produces strife are rejecting or misunderstanding God’s word and in many cases, it causes strife in the life of those who live in sin ad disobedience to God. So it is not the doctrine that we must avoid or silence but other things that do not cause us to pursue peace and edify the body of Christ.

    In fact, the second part of the passage we are studying in other words: Romans 14:19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another

    speaks of pursuing things that edifying one another, so we see that what we already mentioned is true and essential in the church.

    Regarding the responsibilities we have to edify the church, we must mention a very important issue. One issue that is very misunderstood in the church is that many today in the church insist that the only and entire scope and duty of the church is to evangelize, however, that is true but only in part.

    The church’s objective indeed ought to be the propagation of the Gospel in the entire world. However, the obligation and duty of the church is actually to make disciples of Christ, which is the commandment in the Great Commission.

    Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

    This is the well known Great Commission we all are very aware of. This is the passage used to always demonstrate that the church is called by Jesus to evangelize.

    This is the missionaries’ credo and the Scripture always used to encourage believers in the church to become involved in evangelizing.

    However, I said it before and I will it again, this is valid only in part and not in its entirety. Although the entire church’s goal ought to be the spreading of the Gospel in the entire world, the truth of the matter is that evangelizing is, in reality, the beginning part of the Great Commission.

    From the word of the Lord Himself we clearly see that the end result is not just evangelizing the world. Jesus tells the church to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them the Lord’s word and doctrines. Therefore the Great Commission is indeed designed to bring the Gospel to every people, tribe, nation, and tongue but then the job Jesus gave to the church has just begun.

    Evangelizing is the very first thing the church must do, obviously, without evangelizing there can be no church. The church, through evangelists and missionaries, is the vehicle with which God has chosen to save people and to begin the planting, building and continued growth of the local churches.

    Yet we see that Jesus is very specific that the edification of the local churches is essential to the call of the Great Commission. Making disciples is not simply saving people with the Gospel, that is only the beginning. Once persons are saved and added to the number of each local church then they must be made into disciples of Christ.

    We see this to be perfectly in line with what Paul writes in Ephesians 4:11-16. This passage is the practical description of the Great Commission. This passage is the more expounded teaching of what Jesus commands to the church through the Great Commission.

    Ephesians 4:10-16 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ– 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

    This passage explains very clearly what the whole purpose of the church is in the world. Today we notice that every single minister mentioned in this passage we will find out that in their view each one of them views their ministry as the most essential one to the church. Today we must see these ministries and offices a little differently. Today the office of the Apostles is no longer in existence although many factions of Christianity especially the Pentecostal/Charismatic in addition to both Roman and Orthodox Catholic churches believe that the Apostleship still exists today.

    The offices of Apostle and prophets as delineated in New Testamentary Scriptures ceased to exist because of the nature of the offices and ministries themselves.

    In other words, as Ephesians 2: 19-22 states:

    Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

    The church was founded upon the foundation laid out by the Apostles and prophets of those days. Why and how? The Apostles and prophets were the persons in those days that founded the church and who gave the church all the doctrines with which she would then have to be taught and be built up. The Apostles and prophets received all the doctrines for the church and gave them to the church of all ages to have to grow and to be built up. In that capacity, those offices are no longer necessary. This is because, as you probably know, even in the construction of a physical building made of brick and stone or cement or any other material, the actual foundation is laid and the cornerstone is placed to support the weight and square off the entire building. Once this is completed the rest of the building gets built up or edified on top of the foundation and cornerstone. Once these are laid it is not necessary to lay them down again.

    Therefore when in God’s plan and purpose all the doctrines for the church were completed and delivered the offices of the Apostles and prophets ceased to exist because they were no longer necessary as the foundation and cornerstone were already laid down.

    Today, the offices of Apostle and prophet are absorbed in the others which are left such as Evangelists and pastor/teachers. The pastor-teachers are also called elders of the church. Today they are the ones that teach the Apostolic and Christ’s doctrine to the believers.

    The fact that all prophecies and doctrines are complete as the foundation of the church, now they just need to be taught to edify the church. Therefore, the pastor/teacher/elder has taken the mantle of prophecy and teaching that the Apostles had in the beginning of the church’s existence. Also evangelists, often, have a similar function as the Apostles had which is to plant churches in places where the church does not yet exist. It is the Evangelists’ call to preach the Gospel and plant churches where there are none. Besides, when they have this missionary call they will also be called to be interim teachers and pastors until others can be sent to replace them or until they can appoint some in the newly founded local church.

    This may often take years to do. The responsibilities of the ministers in the church is as we read before:

    for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ-( Ephesians 4:12-15)

    Therefore, the Evangelists today do the work of planting churches in places where the Gospel has not been preached yet, these today are also called missionaries. Many of these if not all must be equipped in teaching and pastoring as well. The appointed elders ordained as pastors/teachers govern and teach the local established church. Also in the local established church, there are local called and ordained evangelists for the preaching of the Gospel locally.

    The evangelists, either local or missionary are the God-given instruments through which the Gospel is preached for the establishment of the church where it does not exist and for the numerical growth of the local churches.

    The pastor/teachers/prophets are the ones who govern the church as local elders and those who teach the Lord’s and the Apostle’s doctrine to the local believers. These all work together to bring about the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

    We are studying all this because it is very necessary to learn to better understand what Paul is saying here in Romans 14.

    He is saying that in the body of Christ the important thing is the edification of each and all believers. Edification means to be built up, constructed, made to grow up. In the church, all believers ought to endeavor in the edification of each other in love. This occurs only when the more spiritually mature help the weaker believers to grow and mature spiritually.

    We see this is the reason why the church ought to meet together.

    New Testamentary Scripture is filled with this kind of exhortation, this besides evangelizing is the role of the church on earth, to help each other grow in Christ-likeness, to be salt and light in the world by establishing and promoting God’s Kingdom on earth until Jesus returns. The propagation of the Gospel also has an Eschatological aspect to it as well, in other words, the completion of the church and the salvation of Israel by hastening the Lord’s return, see Matthew 24:14; Romans 11:25-26.

    However, the purpose of the local church besides being a part in the propagation of the Gospel locally and in the world is to edify itself through truth and love.

    1 Corinthians 12:5-7 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:

    The manifestation of the Spirit through gifts, ministries and activities are the manifestation of the Holy Spirit and the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each for the common good known also as the edification of the body of Christ.

    1 Corinthians 14:1-5 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 2 For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.

    As we see in these passages the goal in the church must be the growth, the edification of all believers and all must be motivated by love, see 1 Corinthians 13.

    That’s the entire context of chapters 12 to 14 of 1 Corinthians.

    If we look at the background of the Corinthian church we see that there were divisions, envy and a lot of competition between its members. The competition was a spiritual one, or at least they thought it was spiritual. Paul tells them that their behavior was carnal instead, 1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 1 Corinthians 3:1-4. The final evidence of this behavior is the very fact that Paul has to write them chapters 12 to 14. The goal in the church is not for a believer to use their spiritual gifts to compete with one another to prove who is more spiritual than the other or even to counterfeit their spiritual gifts to prove that they were more spiritual than others.

    Therefore, Paul has to write to them to set them straight and to tell them that God has given them the Holy Spirit and His gifts, ministries and manifestation, not to be faked, not to be used in pride, not to be used to compete with each other, not to think of one gift better than others, rather for the edification of the entire body and that love for each other must be the motivating factor and no other reasons are acceptable. Edification in love and nothing else.

    Besides, we saw this mentioned already in Ephesians 4:11-16.

    The goal in the church is Christ-likeness, spiritual growth and developing a deep love for each other.
    This, by the way, is also the commandment of the Great Commission in other words making disciples of Christ and teaching them all the Lord had taught them, before and after Pentecost, after the coming of the Holy Spirit. What we are talking about, in fact is what Jesus taught them through His Spirit:

    John 16:12-15 I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.

    And that is what they taught the church and what we must teach the church today.

    There are many other passages that show us that this must be the goal of the church.

    Ephesians 4:29-30 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

    1 Timothy 1:4-5 nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. 5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,

    Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

    Even in this last passage, we find that the main objective in the church is to stir up love and good works in each other. This is another way of saying that we must help each other in achieving Christ-likeness and must do it with love, with the truth but motivated by love for each other. This is why it is very important not to forsake coming together as a body, not as it was the manner of some, once again exhorting one another, which is another form of saying edifying each other, helping each other grow in godliness and encouraging each other and so much more as we see the Lord’s Day approaching.

    I just want to say something about this passage. Sadly, many believers today are isolating themselves and neglecting to meet and fellowship together. Now let me say something very clearly and even forcefully at this point. Just because a lot of people still meet in churches for Sunday services, still this passage is not being observed as it is written. Why? Because today especially, the churches are not conducive to practice this kind of behavior. How? Because churches today, not all, but most are no longer set up in a New Testamentary mold and pattern. Today churches are mostly too large and not set up properly to give the members the real possibilities to actually do what the church should do. Churches today are run more like corporations rather than what they should be, family of God.

    God’s pattern for the church is to be a home based church. God desired that locally there would be smaller but more home churches than fewer but large public ones. That was God’s desire, yet man changed God’s pattern and by doing so man has made the condition of the church much worse than it should be.

    We talked about at length of the benefits of home churches and I do not want to go over it again in detail. Suffice to say that because of the public, larger and more dispersive nature of the church the believers do not grow in Christ-likeness and mature very little if at all.
    The fellowship, the exhortation, the encouragement and yes, the love we ought to have in the church for one another, are in many cases lost and practiced very little today.

    Of course what makes all this even much worse is the lack of sound doctrinal and expository teaching, however, the way the churches are set up and laid out makes all the difference.

    The way, today’s churches are set up makes it very easy to be in the midst of many people but to live a very isolated and lonely life as a believer.

    In many churches I must say, activities are not lacking, however, what kind of activities are practiced and encouraged often are not conducive to the growth, edification, and nurture of love. Churches may become more like social clubs rather than churches.

    Once again, this is because the priorities in the churches are as wrong as the methodologies and activities that are practiced.

    Large churches can work only if the practices within it are practiced in a New Testamentary pattern.

    Within a large congregation, there must be its break down into many smaller groups and these must be led by real and ordained pastor/elders. The groups must be formed as if they were home churches. Within the groups, there must be real fellowship and love as well as sound doctrinal teaching.

    In this type of church then the senior pastor/elder can then act as a true bishop and overseer and the council of elders in such a case becomes truly biblical and valid in a New Testamentary way.

    There are very serious drawbacks to large public churches compared to the New Testament pattern of home churches. There are always serious drawbacks when we stray from God-given patterns and pursue that which seems somehow better for us.

    I can understand in part the misguided reasoning behind the philosophy of a public and larger house of worship and yet the flaws outweigh the benefits.

    Paul once said: 1 Corinthians10:23 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

    This subject I believe falls in this category that Paul mentioned.

    As we see, God did not make the place of meeting for the church a clear commandment, in other words, He did not command that the church meet in homes, yet He gave it as a clear pattern. So perhaps it was lawful to change the homestead church with the public setting? Maybe, however, it was not helpful nor was it conducive to the better edification of the body, in fact, quite the contrary.

    It is way too easy today in the modern church to become isolated and not to grow and find true edification, encouragement, and love.

    The state of the modern church encourages many believers to become discouraged and not well instructed and edified that they become discouraged, sometimes even disgusted with the state of the church that believers begin to forsake the assembling of themselves together.

    There are other reasons why professing believers want to neglect the assembling together.

    In actuality, however, very few if any are legitimate and good reasons.

    Too many believers choose to neglect the assembling of themselves together for selfish reasons. For example, I know some of these following to be reasons that I have heard some people give as they think them to be legitimate reasons.

    Some would rather shun meeting in the church rather than be at risk to be offended by someone. Many believers stop going to church because they have been on the receiving end of offenses. This, however, is a very selfish reason and it hides an unhealthy spiritual condition. Possibly hides a spirit of unforgiveness and resentment.

    Many other believers shun and avoid going to church because they have had negative experiences with leadership, others avoid going to church because they become unsatisfied with the music that a particular church uses in its worship services. Some others just plainly do not want to be accountable to anyone so they just avoid going to church, or perhaps they just attend sporadically and they also become what I call church hoppers.

    All and any of these reasons are not valid to avoid attending the church. It is rarely a valid reason to avoid finding a church to which belong.

    There are some valid reasons to leave a church, very few, but even in those cases, the believers who leave those churches must find another church to attend as soon as possible.

    There are a couple of valid reasons to leave a church, the two main reasons are, they teach false doctrines and they spiritually abuse the members.

    Another reason is, church leadership does not govern as Scripture commands.

    All other reasons would not be valid ones to leave a church. As I said though, believers must find a good and sound biblical church to attend an of which to be a part.

    Believers should never isolate themselves and should do their best to stay in fellowship and attend a sound and solid Biblical local church.

    There are very rare occasions where believers may live in countries where good and sound biblical churches are extremely hard to find or where believers for some reason or another end up living in isolated areas and good and sound churches may be far away from them and if they also have inadequate transportation, and for these reasons it may be difficult almost impossible for them to attend a local church.

    However, these situations in reality are fairly rare, especially in the US. It is incumbent for believers to try and find ways to find a church to attend; but sometimes, rarely thank God, it is, in such cases better to remain alone than attend bad and in many cases false churches.

    Today, however, as opposed to years ago it may become easier to find other believers who are isolated and with and through technology one can find unusual ways to have fellowship and edify one another. It is not the best situation but in very rare occasions there may be very little or no opportunities to attend a sound and good church.

    Let me make a personal statement and example. In our case, we decided, after careful and prayerful consideration to start a home church rather than attending a public and mainstream church.

    Indeed, today many, too many, perhaps even most mainstream, denominational and public churches are quickly falling into worldliness, false doctrine and bad church governance. Now a days even open and clear apostasy.

    In fact, the line between a church accepting worldliness, false doctrines and bad governance and clear and open apostasy is actually very thin. Most churches that find themselves on this situation, will eventually end up apostatizing from the Gospel and Apostolic faith and doctrine.

    Not all believers however, can just up and start a home church.

    First of all, to start a home church or any church for that matter there must be at least a man who as a pastoral and elder calling. Seeing that I had this call for years we saw fit that if it was God’s will to do so, that God could start a church in our home.

    In such a way and setting we can make sure that the church is governed and managed God’s way, and also we can be sure that sound doctrine is taught and that the worldliness is kept out.

    However, it it wasn’t God’s will we did this then it would be incumbent upon us to find a sound biblical church and attend it. As I said today it may be increasingly difficult to find such churches but try we must.

    Anyway, the bottom line of the passage we are studying is this: that we should always endeavor to only do things in the church for the edification of others and do it motivated only by love for God and other believers.

    As we said before, the Great Commission commands the church, especially church elders/pastors, to make disciples of Christ by teaching them the Lord’s and the Apostles’ doctrines. This is another term or synonym for edifying the church.

    As we clearly see making disciples or edifying, in other words building up the church on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets and upon Christ as the cornerstone of the church is what the church must do.

    The church has a great responsibility in this world before God. Not only the church through its evangelists must preach the Gospel and help spread it all over the world, but this process involves not only saving people on an individual basis, it means that once individuals receive God’s salvation through the preaching of the Gospel they must be made into disciples of Christ. This is building the local church through numerical growth as well as individual spiritual growth (sanctification and discipleship) of all the members of the various local church assemblies. Therefore we must all expend ourselves in edifying each other and nothing else.

    Romans 14:20-22 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. 21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.

    Here Paul repeats what he had also previously mentioned in the chapter, specifically in verse 15 where he states the following:

    Romans 14:15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.

    This is the same concept repeated now in verse 20. Once again Paul mentions this fact. When in Scripture passages we read things mentioned twice in a very close setting we must understand that the concept that the author, namely God through the human writer, is placing in evidence is extremely important.

    It is extremely important to understand that we cannot in any way cause our brothers and sisters to fall or to damage them in any way for the sake of food. As we saw it does not stop at food either. We specifically explained that for any reason other than sound doctrine as delineated in Scripture, we should not use anything at all in the church to damage or as Paul says to destroy the work of God.

    Now how in the world can we destroy God’s work? Isn’t it presumptuous to think we can be so strong mere men to actually destroy God’s work?

    We need to understand this concept properly! We know or should know that God is absolutely sovereign and absolutely omnipotent. So if this is true how can a man, woman or demon or Satan himself destroy God’s work?

    Are all or any of these people stronger than God?

    Paul tells us very distinctly in Romans 8:28-39 that this is actually not the case. Let’s review this passage.

    Romans 8:28-39 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    As we clearly see there is nothing or no one that can undermine and undo God’s work of salvation in His children. However, even though we cannot undermine and undercut God’s love and salvation we can become obstacles in the process of growth and maturity in ourselves and others.

    We must remember that before we are born again we have a very limited free will and in regard to the spiritual and moral choices that are acceptable to God we have no free will. Man’s free will is not free at all until God sets it free. Once we become born again God restores the freedom of our will, where now we want and can obey God willingly. However, we disobey God willingly as well.

    Once our will has been freed from the slavery of sin obeying and disobeying God becomes a real free choice. It is obvious that we sin for various reasons but in the end once we become born again we have freedom to obey God or not obey Him.

    Therefore, when we carelessly or selfishly do things that cause us and others to sin we are actively a part of the destruction of what God is building.

    This does not mean that the damage will be irreparable. We must consider the work of God and for no reason and especially not for foods, destroy the work of God-the work of grace, particularly the work of faith growing in thy brother’s soul.

    The works of peace and comfort can be destroyed by such an offense we must take heed of therefore; not to try to undo that which God is doing.

    We should work together with God, do not try to undermine His work.

    First of all, the work of grace and peace is the work of God; it is wrought by Him, it is wrought for Him; it is a good work of His beginning, Philippians 1:6. Every saint is God’s workmanship, His husbandry, His building, Ephesians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 3:9.

    Secondly, We must be very careful to do nothing which tends to the destruction of this work, either in ourselves or others. We must deny ourselves in our appetites, inclinations, and in the use of Christian liberty, rather than obstruct and prejudice our own or others’ faith and peace.

    Remember, God tells us to pursue things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. (Romans 14:19) not to destroy and hinder peace and not to tear down what we should instead be building up.

    The work of God is what God does, and especially here this refers to His work in rearing “his church.” The “Christian” is regarded specially as the work of God, as God renews our heart and makes us what he are. Hence, we are called God’s “building” (1 Corinthians 3:9; Ephesians 2:20-22), and His “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10), and we are considered

    “a new creature;” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

    Therefore this meaning is, “Do not conduct ourselves, in regard to the distinction of meats into clean and unclean, to cause our brothers to sin or to impair or ruin the work of growth which God is carrying on in their soul.”

    The expression does not refer to man, the physical ma as being the work of God, but to the “sanctification” of the Christian; in other words, what God, by his Spirit, is producing in the heart of the believer.

    Many for meat and drink do end up hindering or as the passage states even destroying the work of God in themselves (nothing more destructive to eh soul than pampering and pleasing the flesh, and fulfilling the lusts of it), and likewise in others, by a willful offense.

    Obviously we cannot destroy the nature of someone’s salvation because no one can destroy that we have seen this written in the passage we read before in Romans 8:28-39.

    Some may object at this point for a couple of reasons. Some object because they believe, erroneously, that born again believers can potentially lose their salvation or as some say fall from God’s grace.

    We have gone through this subject at length in he past and I will not do so here again. Suffices to say that this doctrine is absolutely false and erroneous, even as Romans 8:28-39 clearly shows us.

    There are so many other Scriptures as well as the counsel of Scripture itself that denies that a person once saved can lose that status.

    I will concede that there are some passages that seemingly can make one think that a believer could lose their salvation, however, when we understand God, His attributes, His promises and His word in a proper way we understand that this is not possible at all.

    Therefore, the destruction mentioned in the verse we are studying is not the destruction of the believer’s soul, it is not an eternal destruction but it is the destruction of a believer’s spiritual growth.

    Let us remember that, although sanctification or spiritual growth is God’s work in us it can occur mainly only if we actively cooperate with God in doing so. We need to cooperate with God in the process of spiritual growth both, individually and personally and we must cooperate with God in the corporate and collective sense.

    We are all responsible for this process to advance in the life of believers. If we neglect doing it as God desires we will, in essence, delay, hinder, stunt even block in other words destroy this process.

    Interrupting and hindering the process of spiritual growth in ourselves and others in God’s terms is tearing down the edifice or the edification of the body of Christ.

    Imagine the figure of speech using God’s word. The foundation and corner stone of the church but also of our salvation is Christ and the doctrines of the Apostles and prophets of the NT. Ephesians 2:20-22.

    The Scriptures though compare the church to a building that has to be built up by each believer, Individually we are responsible for the growth or the edification of ourselves as living stones in the body, the edifice of God. However, the ministers are indeed responsible to be a very active part of helping us through this process and not only, they also have the responsibility to place each prepared and built up stone in the proper place of the building, in other words to place us in the right place of the building.

    This is the destruction Paul is speaking about in this verse.

    Then Paul says: All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense.

    We already spoke about this subject before, all things God made are lawful to eat and are purified by Him. For the believer in Christ all foods are now lawful.

    The old Levitical rules regarding clean and unclean foods are no longer applicable to the NT believer in Christ.

    The NT makes it clear that for believers in Christ that all foods are clean and lawful.

    1 Timothy 4:1-5 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

    As we see here Paul states that all foods are created by God and when received with thanksgiving by believers, those who know the truth, for every creature of God is good and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving because it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

    The key words here are every creature and nothing is to be refused. This is pretty clear, every means every and it leaves none out. Nothing again is an absolute term, it leaves no room for something. So according to God’s word it is very important to understand that all foods without exceptions are lawful to eat and none of them are to be refused for a religious reason. In fact, Paul in the following verses specifies:

    1 Timothy 4:6-9 If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. 7 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.9 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.

    First of all Paul, God commends and praises a minister that teaches these things, because it proves that those who do this are nourished in the words of faith and good doctrine.

    Then Paul says to reject profane and old wives fables and to exercise, discipline ourselves to be godly, which is in essence what Paul also said in Romans 14 when he said:

    Romans 14:17-19 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.

    We are to exercise ourselves toward godliness as 1 Timothy 4:7 says and not to be taken by human and even religious traditions, what Paul calls profane and old wives fables. This is also what Peter speaks about in:

    1 Peter 1:18-19 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;

    19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

    Here Peter mentions the vain conversation received by tradition from the fathers. This statement is actually amazing when you consider the words used.

    It’s the same words basically used by Paul in 1 Timothy 4 which also connects the traditions of the fathers, in other words the Jewish traditions and even the Levitical law regarding foods rules and regulations.

    Also many of the rules and regulations that the Jewish faith kept were not even strictly God’s law but instead were rules, regulations and traditions taught by different Rabbis.

    In fact this is what Jesus criticized and condemned several times, this is one of those times:

    Mark 7:6-9 He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 7 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men–the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” 9 And He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.

    Jesus Himself condemns this religious behavior, it’s religious behavior, and unfortunately all this context of foods and drinks and the observation of days has nothing at all to do with the spiritual well being and spiritual growth of the believer and indeed it has absolutely nothing to do with the salvation of a person or the favor one has with God.

    As we see even Jesus says that when people act that way, they are laying aside the commandments of God in order to hold the traditions of men and teaching and obeying commandments of men rather than God’s commandments.

    At this point one may argue that it was God’s law and His commandments to Israel that they avoid to eat certain foods and that they observe certain days as festivals to the Lord.

    This indeed is true, yet, it was true only until Jesus came to fulfill God’s law in Himself and through His sacrifice on the cross, see

    Matthew 5:17-18 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

    Jesus fulfilled the Law of God in Himself in our behalf:

    Romans 8:2-4 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    This passage is very clear and concise in explaining this concept. Now by faith in the person of Jesus Christ, because He fulfilled all of God’s law and God’s will in our behalf, because He has taken God’s wrath in the place of God’s elect, because He died to pay our punishment but was raised back to life in our behalf, for our justification before God, Romans 4:23-25; and because Jesus lives we now have the reality of Romans 8:2 applied to the life of those who believe in Him. It’s the Spirit, the Holy Spirit of life, the Spirit that raised Him from the dead Romans 1:1-4, because it is God’s Spirit, Christ’s Spirit that set us free from the law of sin and death, set us free from having to fulfill the requirements of the law in order to obtain righteousness and be justifies before God, which is something no one can ever do, except Jesus Christ, He’s the only One who could do it and did it in our behalf.

    As Paul states in Romans 8:3-4 the law could not do what Christ and His Spirit did and can do.

    This is exactly why Jesus told Nicodemus, a Jew who believed that righteousness came by obeying God’s law, that in order to be saved and be declared righteous and justified before God a person must be born again from above, from God’s Spirit.

    Then Jesus explains to Him in no uncertain terms that He had come to prepare the way for this to happen and that it would happen by Him being sacrificed and that because of this very fact that whoever believed in Him and His work of redemption was a person born from above and that whoever believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life, see John 3:1-21.

    Therefore a believer in Christ is declared righteous and justified before God only by faith in Jesus Christ and therefore by being born of God, John 1:11-13.

    Paul writing to the Galatians because the Galatian church was under spiritual attack by Jews who claimed that it was alright to believe in Christ as savior and Lord but in order to have their faith validated by God they also had to keep Moses’ law and basically saying that Gentiles had to first become Jews by the circumcision of the flesh, basically they had to obey God’s Old Testamentary law to be declared righteous and just.

    This could not be further from the truth Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s law and the only acceptable sacrifice for the forgiveness of all the sins of those who believe in Him.

    Jesus is our righteousness, 2 Corinthians 5:21. He is our High Priest that is in God’s presence to justify us always, as we see it is His resurrection and ascension to sit at God’s side that keeps us justified before God.

    In fact, Paul writing to the Galatians says:

    Galatians 3:1-9 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain? 5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?– 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.

    As we see Paul minces no words writing to this church. He calls them foolish and he implies that someone actually bewitched them, in other words they got seduced into not obeying the truth of the Gospel and thinking that they had to somehow be made complete, or perfected by obedience to the law. As Paul says their faith and life was started by the Spirit of God and now they thought that it would be obeying God’s would complete their righteousness and their spiritual maturity. He then asks them rhetorically if God who supplies the Spirit to them, the Spirit that demonstrates them the power of God, does He do it through the observance of the law or by the hearing of faith? In fact, Abraham believed God ( faith) and that was accounted to him for righteousness. Obviously real living faith produces obedience to God’s commandments but it’s not the other way around.

    God’s law does not produce spiritual life, faith and righteousness.

    Therefore, to insist that the food and festival regulations are to be observed in order to become more spiritual or to grow in spiritual maturity is erroneous.

    Yet, there are many believers in many churches,even today, who are taught and believe that they will be more spiritual or they are more spiritually mature because they are performing certain things. Some of these include abstaining from certain foods, not drinking alcoholic beverages and keeping and observing days and feasts or even fasting for example.

    In fact Paul in a passage we read before said: 1 Timothy 4:8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.

    In this case, from the context of the passage delineated previous to this verse we understand that the bodily exercise Paul speaks of here is not working out, it’s not that kind of exercise he is mentioning, rather he is making reference to the ascetic practices about which was actually speaking before.

    Paul calls these exercises of the flesh not something that has anything to do with being spiritual in fact quite the opposite.

    Asceticism is a bodily exercise, this is the definition of the term: the practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons.

    This is exactly what Paul is talking about, for these spiritually unimportant reasons we ought not ever cause hurt or offense to other believers. So let us not destroy, stunt, stop or put obstacles before other believers’ edification and spiritual growth.

    These things that Paul is mentioning, foods, drinks, festivals do not edify anyone because they are not spiritual works also they are not a cause for spiritual growth which only come by the Spirit and word of God.

    The foods in question therefore do not matter, whether a person eats certain foods or abstains from them, whether a person celebrates a certain day or does not, whether a believer drinks wine or alcoholic beverages with self control and moderation or whether a believer abstains from drinking them, none of these things make a believer more or less spiritually mature.

    Paul is exhorting the Roman believers and us as well not to ruin each other’s spiritual walk over foods, drinks or any other thing that is not openly prohibited by God’s word.

    There is another passage that Paul wrote that is very clear and helps us understand better that things that were commanded Israel in the Old Testament law were only temporary until Jesus came to fulfill God’s law in Himself.

    Colossians 2:11-23 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

    16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. 20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations– 21 Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using–according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

    This passage clearly explains to us why the Old Testamentary law is no longer a prerequisite for believers.

    As Paul describes here In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

    In Christ we have been circumcised spiritually, in other words in the way that counts. This circumcision is of the heart and it is spiritual not made in the flesh, not made with human hands.

    Paul spoke of this also in: Philippians 3:3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,

    also in: Romans 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

    As we clearly see all this reflects what we already read before in Romans 8:2-4.

    It’s only the Holy Spirit that can do this spiritual work the spiritual circumcision of the heart, which is also known as new birth of the Spirit and described also in Old Testament Scripture regarding the spiritual new birth of Israel that we find in Ezekiel 36:25-27. However it is also the description of what God does to the Gentile people who believe in Christ.

    So we see that, without Jesus’ living and obeying God’s law perfectly, dying to forgive our sins and taking our judgment, rising again to justify us before God and ascend into heaven to also be our justification and High Priest and to send the Holy Spirit to give new birth and apply His work of redemption to the elect by the preaching of the Gospel none of this would be possible and it is a spiritual work not a religious or carnal work, nor does it occur by obeying the law, even the law of God.

    Paul explains all this in the Colossian passage and other places as well: And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

    As we see, we were dead in our sin and the uncircumcision of our flesh, to remedy this problem God had to make us alive in Christ and by forgiving our sins by wiping out, canceling, erasing the requirements of perfectly having to obey the written law of God, those requirements were actually written in condemnation against us. Jesus has taken them out of the way through His death on the cross. He also disarmed principalities and powers by humiliating them and triumphing over them in the same cross.

    Jesus plundered as a victorious army does to a conquered country. The terms used in this verse are all military, and the idea is, that Christ has completely subdued our enemies by his death. A complete victory was achieved by his death, so that every thing is now in subjection to him, and we have nothing to fear.

    The “principalities and powers” are the powerful spiritual enemies who had held human beings in awe and prevented them from serving God. The apostle here refers to the ranks of evil and fallen spirits who have usurped dominion over the world. Our Savior, with His death, has practically taken over the domain from them. Satan and his legions have certainly invaded the earth, and still invade it and dragged all the human beings into slavery and subjected them to their evil kingdom. Christ, with his death, defeated and conquered these invaders and took back the elect who had also been captured.

    Jesus made a show of them openly as a conqueror returning from a victory displays in a triumphal procession the kings and princes whom he has taken with the spoils of victory. This was commonly done when a “triumph” was decreed for a conqueror. Paul says that this was done “openly”-that is, a grand victory; a glorious triumph over all the powers of hell in the face of the whole universe.

    It does not refer to any public procession or display on earth; but to the grand victory Jesus achieved in view of the universe, by which Christ, as a conqueror, dragged Satan and his legions in His triumphal victory.

    Triumphing over them by the cross. This triumph was effected by the atonement made for sin by the Redeemer. The word “triumph”, the meaning of all this is, that since Christ has achieved for us such a victory, and has subdued all our foes and no longer be led captive by them but in Christ we should regard ourselves as freemen. We should not be made again the slaves of custom, habit, ritual observances, or superstitions, or anything whatever has its origin in the kingdom of darkness. We are bound to assert and to use our freedom not allowing any enemy power in the form of philosophy or false teaching of any other kind, to plunder or “spoil” us and the church. The Christian is a freeman now and His great Captain has subdued all his enemies, therefore we should not allow them again to set up their dark empire over our lives.

    Because of all these things that Jesus did for us and that the condemning requirements of the law written against us because of our inability to keep the law are taken out of the way, now Paul says:

    So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. 20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations– 21 Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using–according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

    Because we are in Christ and because He has fulfilled the law of God for us and also taken away the guilt of our transgressing the law of God, we are now covered, considered righteous and justified in Christ without having to obey the law in order to be considered righteous and even spiritual for that matter. Therefore Paul says not to let anyone judge us regarding foods or drinks, or regarding the celebration of festivals, the celebrations of new moons or the keeping of sabbaths.

    This is such an important statement, because as Paul says, all these things were a shadow, indeed a shadow of things to come, the substance of all these things in fact is Christ.

    Things mentioned here are all the things Jesus did for us, it’s Him fulfilling God’s law in order to be the perfect man and perfect sacrifice, so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    This passage is also important because it actually puts to rest the entire disagreement that we often find in some segments of Christianity, usually through false Christian religions such the Seventh Day Adventist religion but not only. There are many other sects within Christendom that insist that the Christians must keep and observe the Sabbath day.

    This is not so at all, we see even through the history of the church after the first few years after Pentecost, that once the church became more and more Gentile in composition and less and less Jewish the keeping of the Sabbath became obsolete.

    Let’s remember that Paul wrote the Epistle to the Colossian church approximately in A.D. 62, that is approximately twenty nine years after the resurrection, ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit to give birth to the church on that famous day of Pentecost. Even though this was quite a long time there was still a push going on and that had been going on since the birth of the church, by the so called Judiazers of the church, in other words, those who were Jewish and were trying to make the Gentiles become Jews and observe the Old Testament law in order to be valid and real Christians and in addition Paul opposes such false teaching in this Epistle and others, the teaching of Judaizing Christians, who were also mixed up with eastern theosophy, angel worship, and the asceticism of the Jewish sect of the Essenes. The theosophists professed to have a deeper insight into the world of spirits and a greater denial and control of the flesh than the simple gospel affords.

    Some Alexandrian Jews also may have visited Colosse and taught Philo’s Greek philosophy, combined with the rabbinical angelology and mysticism, afterward embodied in the Cabbala.

    Therefore here Paul is teaching the Colossian church to not let anyone lay guilt on them regarding the practice of the Mosaic Law including as we clearly see written the keeping and the celebation of the Sabbath Day.

    In addition since Jesus Christ has fulfilled the entire law of God Romans 8:3-4; and since He is also the Lord of the Sabbath, Mark 2:27-28; Luke 6:5, and that in reality through Him and in Him whoever believes in Him has entered God’s rest, the rest of God’s grace and favor and rest from having to perform the works of the Law in order to be considered righteous before God and to be pleasing to God, see Hebrews 4:1-11.

    Therefore, as we clearly see in the Colossian 2 passage in question, Paul is telling the church then and us today, that we ought not to feel that we are to be judged about the Old Testament Law requirements and when others were trying and still try to lay burdens besides believing solely in Christ by faith through God’s grace, specifically these Jews who were going around with these false teachings and trying to attach them to the Gospel. These were the Jews who wanted to make Gentiles into Jews and make them adhere to Moses’ Law in order to be saved even by faith in Christ.

    They wanted to just add Jesus to the Law but this is a false Gospel, a Gospel of works really and not exclusively of grace and faith in Christ alone, which is the only and real Gospel. Jesus fulfilled the Law of God in our behalf, we saw this already various times as it is clearly explained, first by Jesus Himself in Matthew 5:17 and then by Paul, specifically in Romans 8:3-4; Galatians 2:16.

    Even in Acts 15, when Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem bringing the good news to the Apostles that the Gentiles were being saved through the preaching of the Gospel, a contention arose regarding this issue Acts 15:1-5.

    These were the responses that were given regarding this issue:

    Peter who had first hand experience as he was the vessel chosen by Christ to open the doors of the Kingdom of God through the preaching of the Gospel Matthew 16:18-19; he did so to the Jews Acts 2; to the Samaritans Acts 8; and to the Gentiles Acts 10, now he spoke in Acts 15 and made this statement:

    Acts 15:7-11 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”

    Interestingly enough look at what Peter says in verses 10-11:

    Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.

    Peter says the they were testing God by placing a yoke of bondage of the Law on the Gentile disciples that even Jews had not been able to bear. Peter claims here what Paul also claims and what later the Reformers claimed that is is not by any work at all, not even the Law of God that a person is saved but only through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith in Him, the One who has obeyed and fulfilled the Law of God in a perfect, therefore sinless manner.

    Christ is our only justification and our only righteousness:

    Romans 4:23-25 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

    2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

    Therefore, we are required to keep and obey God’s word, that fact is not in question but we are not required to obey it to gain a status of righteousness and to be justified before God. In other words, salvation is already granted to us by grace and through faith in Christ, Ephesians 2:8-10 and now that we have experienced God’s grace and love and have been born again of God’s Spirit , now we also love God, because He loved us first in and through Christ,1 John 4:19 and in love we obey God’s word because we desire to do so for love not to earn salvation or favor with God. Christ and His word tell us that loving God is indeed obeying Him and we obey Him because we are loved by Him and we love Him, not to earn salvation or good standing with God, see John 14:15; John 14:21-24;1 John 2:3;1 John 5:2-3.

    In conclusion all things therefore are pure to consume as foods but then Paul says: Romans 14:20b but it is evil for the man who eats with offense.

    What Paul is saying here as he also had said before in the same context, we can eat anything we want, we are no longer bound by rules regarding foods, even in the context of foods previously offered to idols, even in that case there is no limitation or prohibition regarding those foods. Yet, the issue is that although any food is lawful for us to eat in any case if we eat those foods and for some reason they cause offense of any sort to other Christians then eating, drinking or doing any other thing that is lawful for us to do becomes sinful as in that case they become a stumbling block and a cause of sin for others then we are not allowed to eat, drink or do any other thing.

    In fact, Paul confirms what this means in the next verse when he says:

    Romans 14:21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.

    So, once again Paul states that since all foods, drinks and or the celebration or non celebration of days are all lawful for us if and when these things offend other brothers and sisters or cause them to sin and make the conscience of other believers be violated by our actions, it is no longer lawful for us to consume foods, drinks or celebrate days. We cannot use our liberty to sin or to cause others to sin and be offended by our eating, drinking or celebrating days.

    This concept has been raised other times in Scriptures in other places:

    1 Corinthians 8:7-13 However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. 9 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? 11 And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

    As we see even here Paul says that the knowledge of the lawfulness of our eating, even foods previously dedicated to idols is not in everyone, because some still retain the consciousness of the idol, if they keep eating the same foods we eat even though we know they are lawful, for them it is as if it was food offered to the idols and by eating them their conscience which is weak in this case is therefore defiled in them. Then Paul says that foods, any foods or anything else in reality does not commend us to God and by eating or abstaining does not make us better or worse Christians. However, we should never use our liberty to become a stumbling block to others to those who are weak, weak because they cannot understand that even they are free to eat or drink or celebrate days to the Lord without having to feel guilt.

    Galatians 5:13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

    All of us whose consciences are stronger through the knowledge we have in Christ regarding our liberty cause others to eat for example foods previously offered to idols and they by doing so violate their weaker conscience and then through guilt become weaker in their faith and Christian walk by way of guilt and this is how Paul concludes this argument : But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

    In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul makes the same point when he says:

    1 Corinthians 10:27-33 If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake. 28 But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness.” 29 Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? 30 But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? 31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God,

    Here Paul begins speaking about non Christians in other words, those that are still pagans.

    Evidently he is not talking about a feast in the temple of an idol, but a dinner at that unbeliever’s own house. If they asks us to partake of their hospitality we have the freedom to accept and it is evidently implied here that it would be not improper to go. The Lord Jesus accepted such invitations to dine with the Pharisees and other sinners in fact Christianity is not designed to abolish the courtesies of social life even with unbelievers or to break the bonds of contact with others, Paul makes this clear in

    1 Corinthians 5:9-10.

    In fact, in the church we often do the opposite, we avoid relationships with unsaved sinners and we have fellowship with professing brothers who live like unsaved sinners, while instead Paul says that it is precisely with the latter that we should not even eat together.

    Paul says though that in the case at hand however, when we do accept an invite to eat, in that case in a pagan person’s home, in that case we ought to eat whatsoever is set before us, whether it has been offered in sacrifice to idols or not. But if any man, in this case, any fellow guest; any scrupulous fellow Christian who may be present. That the word “any” refers to a fellow guest seems evident; for it is not probable that the host would point out any part of the food on his own table, of the lawfulness of eating which he would suppose there was any doubt. Yet there might be present some scrupulous fellow Christian who would have strong doubts of the propriety of partaking of the food, and who would indicate it to the other guests.

    For the sake of him that showed us, we must not not offend him; we must not lead him into sin, not hurt and wound his feelings, and for conscience’s sake we must eat not, out of respect to the conscientious scruples of him that told us that it had been offered to idols.

    The bottom line is that we should never, ever cause our brothers and sisters to stumble in their Christian walk, or cause them to sin and cause them to violate their conscience even if and when we know that the knowledge they have about certain things is not right.

    Once again, we are not talking about false doctrine here, we should never tolerate false doctrine and we should always help others to know the truth in love, Ephesians 4:13-16.

    Here we are talking about the improper knowledge of things that are not doctrinal in substance but are for conscience sake. Things that we are talking about specifically in this part of the study are not of doctrinal nature, as we see foods, drinks, days do not commend us to God, they do not make us better or worse spiritually.

    As Paul says, they do not make us better spiritually but they can make us worse when we use them as tools of judgment and use them like weapons to harm others. This is exactly what Paul does not want to happen in the church.

    Whether a believer thinks it’s acceptable or not to eat or abstain from certain foods for various reasons and whether or not it is acceptable or not to celebrate certain days to the Lord, we are not to make these things a point of contention or use them in judgment against each other. In the end the believer that has the so called stronger faith, in other words the believer that knows (has the knowledge and the stronger faith as Paul puts it) that the foods, drinks and days are actually no problem and that it is acceptable to eat everything with thanksgiving 1 Timothy 4:1-9; and that all and any days can be offered to God, these believers are the ones that must however not use their knowledge and the liberty Christ has given them to harm the conscience of the weaker brothers and sisters who still did not arrive to that level of knowledge and faith. It is us, those who know we have the liberty in Christ to have to avoid eating, drinking or celebrating certain days for the sake of those who do not yet know about this liberty.

    At this point let me just say one very important thing that I had already mentioned before in the study of this chapter, these weaker brothers and sisters must in time not remain such. It is the responsibility of the pastors/elders to teach Scripture and to make known these things and help others grow and mature in their faith but must do it gently and in love and with teaching this is actually what Paul taught and exhorted Timothy to do.

    1 Timothy 4:4-6 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. 6 If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.

    2 Timothy 2:23-26 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

    As we see mostly it’s the job of the pastor to do this as we clearly see delineated by Paul. Often in the church we all have at times usurped the job of the pastor thinking that we are helping instead when it comes to certain things we would be better off letting the pastors deal with certain things.

    I’m not saying that more mature and knowledgeable Christians can’t help the weaker ones understand Biblical things better but when they do so they must be very careful how they do it and do it in such a way that will not offend or harm the others. If in doubt we are better off letting the pastors do their job rather than us messing things up for others and harm others because of our insensitivity and judgment. Not all believers must feel responsible for fixing the situations of others. Unfortunately, very often Christians with good intentions end up ruining others and offending their consciences in such a way that these brothers and sisters do not mature and grow spiritually but in fact the opposite happens.

    Romans 14:22-23 Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

    The faith Paul is speaking about here is not the faith we have been given to believe and to be saved, although it is the actual same faith. Let me explain better!

    The faith God grants us in order to believe in Jesus Christ in order to be saved, see Ephesians 2:8-9;

    2 Peter 1:1 or as Jesus puts it the faith we are granted by the Father, see Matthew 16:16-17 and the measure of baby faith that Jesus mentions calling it small as a mustard seed.

    The faith of believers when they are granted the first measure of faith in order to believe is granted and it remains active and alive.

    There is an interesting passage that gives us more insight to this subject of faith.

    1 Thessalonians 3:6-10 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you– 7 therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. 8 For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God, 10 night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?

    Here Paul writing to the Thessalonian church mentions that Timothy has brought the good news about their faith and love. Then again Paul mentions that he desires to see them and that they were comforted by their faith. Then at the end of the passage Paul makes a startling declaration when he says that he desired to see them face to face so he could perfect what was lacking in their faith.

    Let’s think about that last statement, first Paul praises their faith, then he implies that their faith was lacking.

    Lacking in what? A believer has the faith needed to believe and be saved, yet that very same faith when given to believe is actually complete for salvation and potentially complete for everything a believer needs it for. However, that faith needs to grow!God desires that our faith in Him grows beyond simply believing in Jesus for salvation. This is what Paul is actually saying!

    Therefore faith is like a child, it is born of God in us, yet it has to grow like a child into an adult. Faith begins as small as a mustard seed but then it has to grow into a big tree, just like a grain of mustard does.

    God will place us into life situations that will allow our faith to grow and stretch. In addition, we must subject ourselves to the renewal of our mind through the word of God.

    There are several passages that confirm that our faith has to increase and must grow:

    2 Corinthians 10:14-16 For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ; 15 not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere,

    Ephesians 4:10-14 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,

    2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure,

    As we see written in the last three passages our faith has to grow, it has to increase, we must all come to the unity of the faith, which is another way of saying we must all grow in our faith so that we all are in one accord and of one mind regarding our beliefs and grow in conformity to the mind and image of Christ. Which by the way means also to become unified in the proper doctrine and not be caught up in false doctrines.

    Paul also makes a reference to faith growing exceedingly, 2 Thessalonians 1:3. And he ties in their faith growing exceedingly also through the persecutions and afflictions they endured, therefore as we understand faith in us must grow, increase, it must make us become united in thought and doctrine and the stature of Christ and also grow exceedingly even in the face of persecution and afflictions.

    In fact, the Scriptures tell us that our faith in God and His word has to grow and mature and that God uses hardships, suffering and persecution besides His word to make our faith grow.

    Let’s look at some of the passages that explain this fact to us:

    James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

    1 Peter 1:3-9 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith–the salvation of your souls.

    In addition to these two passages we can read Hebrews 11:1-40 which is called the chapter of faith and we understand that the faith of believers of all ages, in this case the OT believers had their faith tested and because of this it became stronger in them.

    Our faith is put to the test by the way, this is for us not for God, God does not need to test our faith because He needs to know whether or not it is genuine or for any other reason but to make our faith grow through the hardships and or the persecutions.

    It is really odd how God works! We would rather not suffer, we would rather not go through hardships, we would rather not be persecuted, yet that is actually the only way besides studying God’s word with which God strengthens and increases our faith.

    Having seen all this, having seen that the faith mentioned by Paul here in Romans 14:22, faith is, yes, the same faith we have when we believe in Christ for salvation however, this faith as we said has to grow through the sound doctrine we receieve through God’s word and through trials, difficulties and persecutions. Therefore, often recent converts although very zealous and on fire for God often have a very weak faith because it is still an immature faith. Although this condition usually afflicts new believers it is not a complete strange occurrence even in some believers that have been so for a longer time. Just because a person is a believer for a long time does not mean that they are all mature in their faith.

    There are a variety of reasons why believers stay immature in their faith even when they are believers for years, let’s just list a few:

    1. They can remain immature in their spiritual growth or faith, same thing, because they continue to live carnally.

    2. They can remain immature in their faith because they do not study Scripture and/or they are taught erroneous doctrines or taught God’s word superficially and for these reasons they even do not know God as He is and therefore they misunderstand Him and a lot of His ways.

    3. They can remain immature in their faith because they hold on to some of the religiosity they previously had and often for this reason they live with some strange type of fear regarding their superstitions or previous religious beliefs and they have a hard time letting them go.

    It is therefore one of the main functions of a pastor/elder is to teach God’s word properly and thus to help all believers grow and shed their fears and superstitions, it is their job to help them know God better by helping them understand God by and through God’s word. Obviously, if a pastor/elder has his own limitations in these things, then they themselves cannot help believers grow in faith properly as even they have some of the same issues their congregants have.

    Let’s take for example a couple of things like drinking wine or alcoholic beverages. It is evident from Scripture that doing so is not a sin until a person begins to lose control and becomes controlled by the substance and falls into habitual drunkenness. However, there are many, many pastors who teach that all alcoholic drinking is sinful. Yet, by their own erroneous doctrine they are actually implying that even Jesus must have then sinned because he drank wine. We know that is not so, Jesus never sinned yet He drank fermented wine. There are others that try to explain away the idea that the wine Jesus drank was just grape juice and yet this cannot be supported by good exegesis of God’s word. It it was merely just grape juice then there would be no need to warn against drunkenness.

    Yet, no one argues that it might be better for some, perhaps even many believers to abstain from drinking alcohol if there is a risk that they can not control themselves. Yet the word of God says that included in the fruit of the Spirit is self control. So if we are controlled by the Spirit it is not necessary to abstain from drinking but it is imperative that as Spirit born and filled believers we exercise self control in all things.

    Look at what God;s word says:

    Ephesians 5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,

    As we can see it says to not be drunk with wine, not to become under the influence and control of the substance rather to be under the influence and control of the Spirit. He is not prohibiting drinking wine but he is drunkenness.

    It is false doctrine to teach that drinking alcoholic beverages is sinful and it should be prohibited.

    There are many other NT Scriptures that clearly show us that the wine in question was fermented and had the potential to make one drunk and I would make reference to the study of the previous chapter as well where we teach this subject in detail, see Matthew 9:17; Luke 1:15; Luke 5:39; Luke 7:33-34; John 2:2-10; Acts 2:13; 1 Timothy 3:3; 1 Timothy 3:8; 1 Timothy 5:23; Titus 1:7; Titus 2:3.

    In all of the instances referred to wine in the previous passage we clearly understand that the wine in question is fermented and has the potential to make one drunk and it’s not at all simply grape juice. In addition we see also that the word of God does not prohibit the drinking rather be given to it, meaning drinking in excess to the point of drunkenness.

    We stated all this to make the point that many Christians do not drink alcoholic beverages for a great variety of reasons and to them they are all valid, yet when we make this practice sinful when it clearly is not then we are teaching and believing false doctrine. Is it better not to drink? Perhaps it is, in that way we totally avoid the remote possibility to fall into sinfulness. Yet if a believer is controlled by the Spirit rather than anything else then it is not at all prohibited to drink.

    The believer who understands all this and knows that he or she has freedom in Christ to drink wine or alcoholic beverages in moderation without being controlled by them, also must understand that his or her liberty cannot be used at all or ever if it makes other believers sin or if it make them violate their conscience because of a weaker less mature faith.

    This in the end is the point Paul is making in the entire chapter 14.

    So when Paul says you have faith, in this verse 22 he means we who have a stronger faith than others, then he drops this pearl saying: Romans 14:22b Have it to yourself before God.

    This part of the verse clearly means that if our faith is strong and we know we have the freedom to eat, drink or celebrate or not days unto the Lord, then we should really keep this between us and God and not to try to override or undermine the weaker faith of others, we ought not to use our stronger faith to strong arm our brothers and sisters in believing like we do unless they clearly are interested in knowing more and or are interested in growing in knowledge regarding these issues.

    Once again it is imperative that we understand that the guidelines delineated here in this chapter by Paul are mostly guidelines that we all must follow in the church, however, they are slightly different for the pastors/elders whose primary responsibility is delineated in Ephesians 4:11-16.

    Although even the pastor/elders must be careful not to offend the conscience of weaker believers it is also their greatest responsibility to help them grow in faith and in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ and His word.

    The concept Paul is sharing with us here by the way is the same as he makes in 1 Corinthians 14 regarding the spiritual sign of speaking in other tongues (languages).

    Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 begins by saying this: 1 Corinthians 14:2 For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him;

    Later on in the chapter he writes this:

    1 Corinthians 14:26-28 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.

    As we see Paul in verse 28 of the above passage states that if there is no possibility of interpretation of the foreign language in the assembly then the person ought to keep silent. Then he says let him speak to himself and to God.

    This last statement clearly implies that the person who has the ability of speaking another language, even in a supernatural way, cannot speak it publicly and loudly in the church if there is no possibility of translating it, in other words they must remain silent and if they want to use the spiritual sign of tongues in that instance, they must do it to themselves and thus doing they would be speaking to God, who incidentally understands all spoken languages without the need of interpreter.

    In other words this must become a silent prayer or a silent praise to God who still hears and understands.

    The point here is that everything done in the assembly must be done strictly for the edification of the body of Christ and nothing must be done if it does not lead to the edification of others.

    That is, in fact, what Paul meant when he said in verse 2 that those who speak in other languages if not interpreted are really speaking to God not to others and even if in the assembly there is a person who could understand the spoken language that is not enough, instead the language must be translated so that everyone present in the assembly understands what is being said and is therefore edified by it.

    The concept in verse 22 of Romans 14 is actually the same. In other words, if a person has a strong faith they must keep it between them and God, same as those who speak in other languages, in both cases, the speaking in tongues and the stronger faith must remain between us and God if these cannot bring edification to others. Certainly neither must ever be used if they cannot bring edification or if they risk to bring harm to others.

    Even today, not only the stronger faith must be kept between us and God if we can’t use it for others’ good but also today’s kind of speaking in tongues (not the same thing as then). Today it is almost always done in violation of God’s word, Because of this they who do so not only are disobeying God but are also causing offense to other believers because they are not edified by this practice and also because in most cases cause weaker believers to think they are spiritually inadequate or that they are second rate Christians compared to those who do speak in tongues.

    In addition many, most who practice so called speaking in tongue today, become very adamant in trying to force other believers to speak in tongues and in so doing they not only damage the faith of others who become discouraged and feel like they are spiritually inadequate compared to them but also in many cases with the practice of the the modern so called version of tongues, they cause many to fall into sin. How? By repeating a false practice of something that today is not Scriptural, this ends up making many people fake the so called gift in order to feel more spiritual or to feel like a whole complete Christian when in reality we all already are all complete in Christ regardless, see:

    Colossians 2:10.

    Even though we all vary in spiritual gifts we are all complete in Christ, see 1Corinthians 12:4-31.

    There are no spiritual gifts have except those the Holy Spirit gives each of us at the moment of our conversion, there is no one size fits all spiritual gift as many erroneously teach such as speaking in tongues.

    Therefore what we understand if that the principle is exactly the same in Romans 14 as it is in 1 Corinthians 14, we must do nothing in the church unless it helps others in the growth of their faith and for their edification.

    The sad thing about the believers who supposedly speak in tongues today is that they are in great violation of the word of God and they act in a spiritual prideful way and even they admit that their speaking in tongues is for self edification and they try to justify this citing these two next verses out of the context of 1 Corinthians chapter 14:

    1 Corinthians 14:4a He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, and

    1 Corinthians 14:39b do not forbid to speak with tongues.

    They claim that these parts of the verses support their behavior in the church today, yet, they make a grave error in doing so. Why? Because by doing this they take God’s word and apply it out of context.

    We should never, ever, take God’s word out of context, it is disingenuous to do so in order to justify behavior that is not right. This erroneous interpretation of God’s word leads to teaching and supporting false doctrine.

    When we take these two parts of the aforementioned verses in their context and apply them to the entire context of 1 Corinthians 12-13 and 14 as a unit of thought, we understand that they cannot and do not justify speaking in tongues in the manner it is taught today in the Pentecostal/Charismatic churches.

    Paul instead is actually making a point in the aforementioned three chapters, that in the body of Christ we all differ in gifts and ministries and that not all believers have the same gifts or ministries and that we should not seek to have the gifts other people have because it’s the Holy Spirit that distributes His gifts as He desires. He does this in order to edify the entire body of Christ. See 1 Corinthians 12:1-31.

    Paul also states that everything we do and every gift we have must be practiced motivated by love of others and not for selfish ambitions and not to show off our spiritual gifts. Love is the highest law and the gifts we have are only to be employed in love for the edification of the body, see

    1 Corinthians 13:1-13 and 1 Corinthians 14:1-40.

    In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul is even more clear, in the church we must always do everything not for the edification of ourselves but operating our gifts in love for the edification of others. The part of verse 4 that gets erroneously cited, in other words, that speaking in tongues is done to edify oneself is written in a negative sense and not in a positive one.

    It is not a positive thing to employ any gift including this one for self edification; rather it is to be used only for the good of others and motivated by love for others.

    In addition, the part of verse 39 they also cite in order to justify themselves speaking in tongues in the assembly, is also taken out of context. It is wrong to apply that passage in order to keep doing what is otherwise prohibited by God’s word.

    In Paul’s days he did not want to prohibit the use of tongues in the church however he goes through great lengths to explain how and why the gift needed to be used and when. The bottom line about all this is what Paul states in:

    1 Corinthians 14:12 Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.

    1 Corinthians 14:26-28 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.

    He also says :

    1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

    Why does Paul say here that God is not a God of confusion? He already explained it throughout the chapter, when there are more than one person at a time that speaks in a foreign language witho no interpretation on top of it all you get is confusion that no one understands and no one is therefore edified by what is being said. God want all to receive edification through our gifts not a bunch of chaotic sounds no one can ever understand. In fact this chaos and confusion is exactly what we experience in the churches where the counterfeit gift of tongues is practiced.

    In addition he continues saying:

    1 Corinthians 14:36-37 Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? 37 If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.

    In conclusion he says:

    1 Corinthians 14:39-40 Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

    By speaking in tongues as they do today and in the way they do today they openly violate what Paul is teaching in chapters 12-13 and 14 of 1 Corinthians.

    As Paul says, the commandments he gives to the church are commandments of the Lord, not merely suggestions or advice. Today in many churches there is chaos and confusion when tongues are spoken and there is a complete and utter disregard for God’s commandments as written herein. As we said this is a violation of the law of love in the church. Speaking in tongues practiced today, besides being illegitimate because it is not the same as in the Apostle’s days, is a selfish and unloving practice and practiced the way it is also such even if it were legitimate. That is exactly the point Paul was making to the Corinthian church and it should be a warning to the church today wherever this behavior is practiced and tolerated.

    As we clearly see love for others is the key in the church, therefore when Paul says if we have faith we should have it between us and God he means the same thing as he did in 1 Corinthians 14 when he spoke regarding tongues, when we can’t use our faith or our gifts only for the edification of others we must keep them private between us and God.

    Paul and Peter both wrote that we must use the grace of God in the gifts He imparted to each of us only motivated by love and only for the edification of others, once we cease to do so we are no longer acting in love. Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 1 Peter 4:8-11.

    Our faith is to be used in the same manner. We cannot use it as a weapon with which we browbeat our brothers and sisters into submission in order to force them to have the same level of spiritual maturity or faith that we have. In the church this is absolutely prohibited.

    As I said before, it’s mainly the pastor/elder’s job to gently and persuasively teach God’s word regarding the issues delineated in Romans chapter 14 and to help the believers with a weaker faith to grow into a stronger one.

    Let’s remember that contextually Romans 10:17 claims that faith in Christ to obtain salvation comes by hearing the Gospel or as he calls it the word of Christ. Yet there is a principle behind this statement that also ties the growth of faith to the hearing of God’s word. The growth of faith or spiritual growth of a believer comes by the learning of God’s word. Both studying God’s word and being taught God’s word by pastors/elders brings a person to spiritual maturity or growth of faith. We also have seen that faith grows also through trials and temptations yet not as much as they grow when study and teaching of God’s word is added into the equation.

    In conclusion, we keep our faith between us and God if it cannot or will not employ it in the way God desires. This chapter is very clear as to how we need to handle the situations delineated in this chapter.

    Then Paul in the same verse says:

    Romans 14:22c Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.

    This part of the verse actually is very simply stating that in a situation where Scripture does not openly condemn something as sinful, those who approve of eating, drinking or celebrating days to the Lord are happy and blessed in what they do if they have no conscientious condemnation as to what they do.

    In other words, as Paul states in the following verse:

    Romans 14:23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

    Those whose conscience do not reprove them in that which they allow themselves to practice. Again this does not approve practicing openly and clear sinful behavior.

    Those who have a clear conscience in their opinions and conduct regarding the issues mentioned in this chapter are blessed and happy. There are many believers who also indulge in practices which their consciences condemn, and in practices of which they are in doubt yet the way to be happy is to have a “clear conscience” in what we do; or in other words, if we have “doubts” about a course of conduct, it is not safe to indulge in that course and it should be at once abandoned.

    Many people are engaged in “business” about which they have many doubts; many Christians are in doubt about certain courses of life. However we cannot have doubts about the propriety of practicing or abstaining from them. This practically means not violating our own conscience in what we practice.

    Paul states in the next verse that anyone who practices something (not sinful) and still doubts as to the legitimacy of what they practice, in other words practice something in doubt, these who doubt are actually condemned in themselves. This does not mean that any believer is condemned in the eternal condemnation sense. In fact, we ought to know without a doubt on that subject that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:1. Our salvation, as we clearly and extensively studied during this long study of the book if Romans, is never in peril and never can be lost. This condemnation mentioned in this verse speaks of self condemnation, feeling guilty and in the end being guilty of sinning, why? Because doubting and practicing something just the same would violate our own conscience and in doing so as Paul states we lack faith in any of these Biblical gray area matters. Because of this we violate our conscience by having doubts and we end up acting in a sinful manner against ourselves and often end up sinning against others as well.

    We often heard the secular saying that says: “ when in doubt punt”. This is correct in this specific context as well. If we doubt about the practice of any of the issues mentioned in this study then we should abstain from moving forward. If we do move ahead disregarding our doubts we end up sinning.

    To give a simple example of what I mean, many Christians, many, have been taught that drinking alcoholic beverages is wrong, actually sinful. Many believe that it is better to abstain even if drinking is not sinful. We proved extensively that drinking in itself is not sinful at all. Living in a state of drunkenness, being under the influence of alcohol is sinful and losing control is sinful but not drinking in moderation. Yet as we said many believers think it is sinful and many think it is better to abstain as drinking may lead one into sinfulness. If any of those believers ever found themselves in a situation where they violated their internal and personal rule not to drink they would immediately feel guilty for doing it. The guilt however does not come from the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sinfulness in that behavior because it is not sinful to drink. The guilt or the condemnation comes from a faulty understanding of God’s word regarding the subject but this is caused also by the weaker faith of the persons who believe drinking is evil or at the very least who believe it is something to be always avoided.

    These people also are easily prone to immediately condemn a believer who does drink alcoholic beverages and they do so in violation of the rules of this chapter. Sometimes believers who do not drink judge and condemn those who do because they think they are more spiritual than those who do. This is not at all true we saw this clearly explained in the study of this chapter, Romans 14:1-17.

    We clearly see that these believers will self condemn themselves if they indulged in drinking alcoholic beverages as they would violate what they believe in their consciences, even if their belief is askew and erroneous. They would therefore sin as verse 23 says because indeed what is not solidly affirmed by one’s faith and causes doubts becomes sinful to them if they practice that very thing.

    On the other hand as the chapter teaches us, the believers who are stronger in their faith and who are convinced by God’s word that they can drink, eat or celebrate days to God, cannot offend with their liberty in the Lord the other believers who do not believe they have the same liberty. In other words, it is better to abstain from doing what we know we can do if our doing so offends others or if it may in some way cause them to do something that violates their conscience.

    So we are blessed when we know that we are not condemned in what we approve to do, again we ought never think we are afforded the liberty to sin, yet in things that are not sinful we are blessed when we can freely partake in those things as long as they do not cause any type of offense to other believers who do not think they have the same liberties.

    Then Paul goes on saying that believers who doubt are condemned if they eat, drink or celebrate days not from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

    Doubting the legality of their actions before God leads to the violation of their conscience and therefore since doubt is lack of faith it actually is sin.

    The condemnation mentioned here by the way, we did already mention but it is worth mentioning again

    is not the eternal condemnation of the unbelievers.

    It’s always worth mentioning that born again believers are no longer destined to God’s eternal wrath, see John 5:24; John 6:37-40; John 10:27-30; Romans 5:9-11; Romans 8:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10;

    1 Thessalonians 5:9.

    The condemnation mentioned here is simply the condemnation of the conscience and the fact that sin is never good in the life of the believer even if it’s forgiven.

    In this chapter we have a remarkable and fine discussion of the nature of an aspect of Christian love. Differences of “opinion” not doctrine, arise, and people will be divided into various opinions regarding non specific doctrinal issue; but if the rules which are laid down in this chapter are followed, the contentions, and altercations, and strife among Christians would certainly diminish and often cease.

    If these rules are applied to the controversies about rites, and forms, and festivals and foods peace will be preserved.

    Amid all such differences, the great question is, whether there is true love to the Lord Jesus. If there is, the apostle teaches us that we have no right to judge a brother, or despise him, or contend harshly with him. Our object should be to promote peace, to aid him in his efforts to become holy, and to seek to build him up in faith.

    As we also mentioned before, it is the pastors’ duty to help believers to spiritual growth and maturity, this is indeed the call of the pastors/elders. If a believer though cannot properly help another believer it is better not to even try not to risk to offend and or injure them. In addition and conclusion we have to reiterate that conviction is the assurance that one’s standard is right. Without a right basis for judgment the believer may be convicted of sin by his conscience where no sin is really involved. It is highly important that a believer provide the correct standard for his conscience, and that he help his fellow believers to have this standard too. We must shun anything that prevents a fellow believer from getting a correct standard and anything that separates a fellow believer from fellowship with Christ. We must also make sure that we never offend a brother and sister through our stronger faith and our liberty, we must therefore choose to abstain from practicing our liberty for the sake of our weaker brothers and sisters, this is how we demonstrate our love for them. Obviously, this means when we are in their presence, we are otherwise free to practice our liberty in Christ.

    This concludes chapter 14 yet chapter 15 opens continuing with the same context, we will therefore take up this in the opening verses of chapter 15 after its introduction.v