(1) Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. (2) For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. (3) Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. (4) Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.Rom 14:1-4
There is much potential diversity in a healthy local church. A healthy local church consists of people that are a reflection of their community. One area of diversity is in the spiritual maturity of those who are members. Some are strong and mature in the faith. Some are weak in the faith and immature. There are people all along that spectrum who are growing from babes in Christ, to children, to adoscelecents, to young adults, and on into spiritual spiritual adulthood and maturity. If a church is consistent in evangelism, discipleship and service there will be all of these kinds of believers in the body. If there are few babes in Christ it may be an indication that there are few reproducing adults! But this kind of diveristy can lead to disunity in the body, especially in areas that Paul calls “doubtful disputations”. These are potential disputes or arguments that are not really that important and may never be settled.
Paul’s instructions to the local body is for the stronger to “receive” the weaker. The word translated “receive” has the idea of taking into oneself, or to be hospitable and authentically loving to a person. But in that reception it is not to bring about and foster these arguments. As an illustration he speaks of the positions that people in the early churches took on eating. Some believed that they should continue the Hebrew dietary laws from the old testament. Some thought that they ought not eat meat offered to pagan idols. These are referred to as weaker brothers. There were others, those characterized as stronger in the faith, that understood their freedom in Christ and would partake of the food as a gift from God to be enjoyed. Paul says to both parties not to despise the other for the position that each hath taken. Why? It is to God to judge in these kinds of matters. The one who does not partake does not answer to the one who does, and the one who does partake does not answer to the one who doesn’t. God is the one to Whom we must give an answer.
One of the dangers in this discussion is that someone would choose liscense and call it spiritual maturity. Another danger is that one would point to the person of Biblical conviction and call them a legalist. Yet another may look at a brother in Christ who understands there freedom in Christ and call them out as a compromiser. This is exactly what this scripture is trying to avoid.
How much time is wasted in arguing over trivial things. Jesus said that we will be known for our love one to another. Love and unity must be passionately fought for on things that are explicit in scripture. There must be a contending for the Truth. We should not contend over “doubtful disputations”. We must give our brothers and sisters in Christ room to grow in these areas. There is a time to “agree to disagree” on the opinions we hold that are not clearly communicated in the Word of God. We must do this by agreeing fervently together on the clear teaching of Scripture. We must submit ourselves to the Word of God together, and become convictional in those Biblical doctrines.
- Is there someone you need to “receive” today?
- Is there a position that you hold that is creating disunity… in your local body of believers? …in your family?