Sunday, 29 December 2013
For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Romans 14:18
Still building on the entirety of the contents of chapter 14, Paul again begins this verse with the connector “for.” This has been one long and continues stream of points and summaries in order to establish doctrine concerning “disputable matters.” It is obviously something of profound importance to him and one which then begs the question, “Why?” The answer has several parts –
First, he had come out of the legalistic system which ruled the life of a Pharisee. He saw how it corrupted the already complex system of the law to the point that it became a crushing burden on the people. Jesus personally spoke against their conduct time and time again. Thus Paul understood that legalism is destructive to the individual and displeasing to the Lord.
Secondly, adding to God’s mandates through legalism invariably leads either to feelings of self-righteousness by those who impose them or to feelings of worthlessness to those on whom they are imposed, but who fail at meeting a requirement which is actually no requirement at all. And the opposite – liberalism, or the setting aside of God’s mandates, invariably leads to immorality, license, and a weak and ineffective gospel message; one so watered down that it actually makes no change in the life and conduct of the one who hears it.
Finally, as the Lord’s spokesperson for doctrine during the church age, his words are to be taken as the inspired word of God. Because they are, just like any other time in redemptive history, we are not to add to nor take away from what God prescribes.
Proverbs 30:5, 6 sums this thought up quite well –
“Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.”
When man interferes in what belongs to God alone, he becomes an usurper of God’s right to rule and His authority over His creatures. Think of it… what a slap in the face of God to decide that we know what is better than He!
Because of these, and certainly many other valid points, he says, “For he who serves Christ in these things is…”
(1) “Acceptable to God.” Christ is God’s standard for humanity. He is our example and He is our guide. Our religious duties are to Him. Therefore, when we serve Him as rightly instructed, the inevitable result is that God accepts our conduct. He gave the instructions and He gave the Son whom we are to serve.
(2) “Approved by men.” Those who see our conduct and understand our relationship with Christ will approve of our actions in that capacity. Although this section is dealing with our acceptance of others’ actions within the faith, this doesn’t necessarily mean that those who see and approve will all be Christians. But even those who aren’t will be able to say, “He is a good example of the faith he professes.” How many times does a person look at a Christian and say, “If that guy is an example of being a Christian, then I want nothing to do with Christianity!” And why? Because they are either adding to what God expects through legalism (“Look at that self-righteous jerk!”) or failing to act properly through a watered down, liberal faith (“Look at the perverted things that ‘Christian’ does!”) Our adherence to God’s laws reflect on the One we profess to serve. If another maligns our Lord when we are faithfully obedient, then He will judge that person. But if someone maligns our Lord when we act unfaithfully, then He will certainly judge us.
Life application: We serve an infinitely wise God. What He ordains is right, whether we personally accept a premise or not. We may have a conscience about eating meat, but that is our problem, not His. Our conduct towards other Christians is to be in light of God’s word, not our own pet peeves. And this certainly reflects on our relationship with the Lord. And those who view us from outside the faith are making value judgments on the Christian faith (and thus Christ) because of our individual actions. Let us remember this and act accordingly.
Lord Jesus, I need to remember that it is You I serve. May my judgments about other believers be in line with Your word and not based on my pet peeves. Help me never to add to, or subtract from, those things that You have spoken. I’m not in a competition with them, but in a relationship with them because of You. Help me to honor You through my relationship with those who have also received You as Lord. Amen.