DIFFERENT OPINIONS AND CONVICTIONS
TOWARD ONE ANOTHER, according to
"BE TAKING TO YOURSELF." Receive them. Don't push them away. "BUT NOT FOR DISCRIMINATION OF REASONINGS" (C. V.). "Not for doubtful disputations" (K. J's.) "Not for disputing opinions" (Rotherham). "Not for the purpose of deciding matters of opinion" (Weymouth). But is not this just the thing that is foremost in much of the receiving of the weak or infirm in faith? They must be "indoctrinated" — "inopinionated" by the opinions of oneself, or the group that one adheres to.
The following makes it clear as to what the opinions that are intimated as matters of dispute are about:
"ONE, INDEED, IS BELIEVING TO EAT ALL THINGS, YET THE INFIRM
IS EATING GREENS."
That the infirmities, or weaknesses, that are here mentioned are not physical weaknesses seems very clear from the context. The eating, or not eating is a matter of belief, and, consequently, of harsh judgment on part of a "brother" (vs. 10, 13, 15 and 21). Doctrinal convictions lie back of it all and so it is not only an outward matter, but a question of what shall I believe. It is doctrine that is directly involved. Well, then:
"LET NOT HIM WHO IS EATING BE SCORNING HIM WHO IS NOT EATING (because he has doctrinal scruples), YET LET NOT HIM WHO IS NOT EATING BE JUDGING HIM WHO IS EATING."
Why should he not? The answer is vital:
"FOR GOD TOOK HIM TO HIMSELF." God has acknowledged him. He has accepted him. He is in fellowship with Him. Well, if the person — be he "eater" or "not-eater" — has fellowship with God why should I refuse him my fellowship? And why should one of them feel that he was above the other and scorn and judge?
"WHO ARE YOU WHO ARE JUDGING ANOTHER'S DOMESTIC?
To HIS OWN MASTER HE IS STANDING OR FALLING."
If I judge in such a case, I put myself in the seat of the Master — Christ. I am self-appointed. I have by-passed the One Who only has right to judge. I, a servant, have judged my fellow servant, instead of leaving all judgment to his Lord. I have injected myself into an office that could not be filled by anyone but the One Whom God Himself had appointed for Judgeship (Jn. 5:22; Acts 17:31). Judgment in such matters is to be deferred to "the dais of God" (v. 10).
The following verses in the chapter take up days and present the same rule and the same ideal: Full liberty to follow one's personal convictions without being subject to any judgment by the brethren, only accountable to God (vs. 12-13). Same in regard to drinking of wine (vs.21). "It is ideal not to be eating meat, nor yet to be drinking wine, nor yet to do aught by which your brother is stumbling, or is being snared or weakened" (v. 21).
The matters of eating and drinking and days are not all which are included under the principles laid down in this chapter. These things are merely used as examples for all of life's affairs and questions. The principles of saintly deportment applied to these are applicable to all problems. The great principle is not to be doing anything that stumbles the weak brother. This is for the "strong" to observe. And this is vital. It shows the method of edification and development. It is not to be, primarily, by argumentation, but by example.
Now this method seems to us to be totally inefficient. One IS much inclined to feel that if a weak brother shall ever overcome his weakness, for instance having religious scruples about what to eat, then we must go to work and persuade him that he has the wrong doctrinal conceptions. And so the argument starts right there. Exactly the opposite of what the apostle admonishes us to do. Then, if he will not submit to our teaching and opinions regarding the touching question then the next step is: We look upon him as a heretic and we withdraw from him.
But how then, you say, is that ignorant brother to be instructed and made to overcome his weakness if I am not to argue it out with him? Just leave him to the Lord. He is a pretty good teacher. "And they shall all be taught of God" (Jn. 6:45). Just depend upon the Holy Spirit. He can do it when you and I cannot — if it is His will that the brother shall see it just as I have 'perceived it.
"THE FAITH WHICH YOU HAVE HAVE FOR YOURSELF in God's sight." Now "faith" in this case is the same as "belief." It is your personal opinions and convictions regarding things of God. Be not over-concerned about transmitting your belief to those whom you consider "weak" in faith; remember that faith-relationship is, primarily, a matter between the individual and God.
"HAPPY IS HE WHO IS NOT judging himself IN THAT WHICH HE IS ATTESTING." Rotherham has it thus: "Happy is he who is not bringing judgment upon himself in that which he is approving." This is far more sweeping than matters of days, eating and drinking. It takes in the whole life, both as to belief and walk. And the rule is: Make it a personal matter between yourself and God, disregarding what others say, think and feel about it. It is not your foremost duty to impose your conceptions of the divine revelation on others, not even the transmission of them to others is the greatest, but the living of them, by yourself, BEFORE GOD.
"But this contradicts what you have advocated elsewhere, advocating debates even" — I can almost hear some saying.
Not at all. There is not only one but a number of vital differences. In the first place public debates could hardly be carried on with the "weak and infirm." The weak and infirm here must mean those who are young in the faith, ignorant and uninstructed — and are recognized as such. Public debates should not — and could not — be held by any but recognized teachers of the Word, or such as reject the Word. Next: The aim and object of a debate, as well as the spirit in which it is carried on, determines the scripturalness of it, in part. To aim at "downing" an opponent, to "win the debate" is too low for a servant of the Lord. The aim should be to analyze, to compare, to help to a clearer apprehension of the truth. Any other aim and purpose will surely make any debate "doubtful reasonings."
It would be very eccentric and unbalanced if we took the admonition "have it for yourself in God's sight" in such a way so as to counteract or interfere with the oft-repeated, all time and over-all, yes the ever valid mission and duty and privilege of every believer, to bear witness to the truth. This we must and shall always do if we want to please the Lord and avoid serious loss at His Judgment seat.
How I wish I could transmit the apostle's instruction in this chapter to every saint who may read this in such a way as I have perceived by the holy spirit. If I could — and you would make it a holy ambition to conform to it, it would change many strained relationship into understanding and tolerance. Here is the way I perceive Paul's instruction in this chapter:
In outward deportment concerning eating, drinking and observation of days, etc., we should conform our practice to the immature conceptions of the weak and infirm, and we should not argue with them about it and change our attitude if they fail to receive the instruction we may be able to offer them; but at the same time we should maintain our inward convictions unchanged before God — until, of course, we see something clearer and better. "The faith which you have, have it for yourself in God's sight!"
And now, beloved, I am not expecting any more of you than Paul has told us in this chapter and the first verses in the next to expect, and I am going to accord you exactly what his words have set as rule for us who confess to be "members of His body.'" It is this: If you cannot take what I have given here (and, elsewhere, in oral and written testimony), I shall love you just the same. I shall not object at all to it if you look upon me as "weak and infirm in the faith," an immature brother whom you think you are far above in knowledge and understanding, if you will but do what Paul says in ch. 15:1:
"Now WE, THE ABLE, OUGHT TO BE BEARING THE INFIRMITIES OF THE IMPOTENT, AND NOT TO BE PLEASING OURSELVES."
Now you play the "able" and let me play the "Infirm;" and all will be well between us.
And don't forget that the weak one "will be able to stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand" (14:5). "God took him to Himself" and then we should not put our requirement for fellowship any higher than God. God bless you, one and all!
E. A. L. Last updated 11.10.2008