Monday, 30 December 2013
Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Romans 14:19
And yet again, Paul begins with “therefore.” This is actually a combination of two conjunctions which mean “so then.” As always, such a statement requires a review of the previous thoughts for the sake of proper context. Going back to verse 14 is enough to get a good hold on this “therefore.”
“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. 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. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.”
If “there is nothing unclean of itself,” but the conscience can make something unclean, then the conscience needs to remain undefiled. This is because anything which is not of faith is sin. If we cause someone to work against their conscience in a disputable matter, we cause them to sin and we have become the cause of their sin. What Christ allows should never be brought to this state “because the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking.” How clear Paul is; how easily we dismiss it!
Instead of robbing a fellow of a clear conscience over such trivial matters, instead “let us pursue the things which make for peace.” The concept of pursuing is an on-going process. We don’t just pursue until we reach a set point and then stop. Instead, we keep on pursuing, never tiring of chasing after those things “which make for peace.” And the things which make for peace can be considered under two broad areas –
1) Ensuring that those things which are prescribed in Scripture are accomplished. In other words, pursuing proper doctrine. Conscience is not a consideration in this instance; God speaks; we obey.
2) Ensuring that the things which are doubtful are not improperly handled as if they were prescribed; if the Bible makes no prescriptive statement on the matter, then let others pursue it according to their conscience.
Adhering to these two broad categories will certainly make for peace. And at the same time, they will allow for “the things by which one may edify another.” To “edify” means to “build up.” One cannot be built up in the faith if they are allowed to violate something prescribed by God. Likewise, one cannot be built up in the faith if they are coerced to act against their conscience in a matter which is not prescribed in Scripture. The goal for Christians is harmonious living within God’s standards, not finger pointing, backbiting, gossiping, personal vendettas, or unauthorized judgments.
As noted in previous verses. Paul has discussed this matter for the entirety of Romans 14 thus far. This should be so immensely clear that we should never miss the point. He has come at it from every angle imaginable, and sometimes with repetition. Let us keep our fingers out of the lives of others in disputable matters… and yet we fail. Knowing the Bible and properly applying it will keep us from sinning against our fellow believers and it will keep us from being the cause of sin in them.
Life application: Romans 14 asks us time and again to know our Bible. Why? Because we cannot make right judgments on “disputable matters” unless we know what are and what are not disputable matters. We therefore sin when we don’t read, study, and remember our Bible. It really is that simple.
O God, giver of Your word – You have told me not to judge others in disputable matters. When I do, either I sin or I may cause them to sin or both. And yet, unless I know what matters are not-disputable, I can’t know which are disputable… How can I know unless I read and remember Your word? It gives me a whole new state of mind to realize this. Help me Lord to take this to heart. Help me to set aside time to read and know what You expect of me. Amen.