March 19, 2023
This article is based on Pastor Adrian Rogers' message, The Things that Make for Peace.
God wants unity in the Church.
Jesus prayed for us in His high priestly prayer:
“That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You.”
Living in the “bond of peace” is a delight to Christians.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
Satan gets very nervous when there is unity in the Church. Unity among God’s people, however, is difficult.
The Early Church in Rome was in danger of disunity, and that is why Romans 14 was written.
Believers were primarily divided not about fundamentals, but about incidental things—what foods they could eat, and what holy days that they should keep. Both sides were sincere.
Sincere people who love God with all of their hearts can have different opinions.
As someone summed it up: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”
Unity in the body of Christ is a matter of Lordship. The Lordship of Christ is one of the “essentials.” Some incidentals, when compared to the fact that Jesus is Lord, don’t seem so important. For example:
“Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.”
Some in Rome had been saved out of raw paganism, which made blood sacrifices to pagan gods. These saw that some in the Church were buying and eating meat that had been offered to idols. These new Christians, weak in the faith, were saying, “How could you partake of that? Lest I touch any of it, I have become a vegetarian.”
The Jewish believers who had been in the faith for a long time knew that meat is meat, and that an idol is nothing. So, they said, “There’s nothing wrong with this food.”
So, Paul said,
“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.”
The Jews, who thought it was quite all right to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols, had come out of Judaism with its high holy days. Though they had become Christians, they still observed these days.
But these days meant nothing to the former pagans.
Again, Paul pointed out that it was all a matter of devotion to Jesus as Lord.
“One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.”
Unity is a matter of liberty. When you are saved, our Lord sets you free.
“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
Liberty has its rights.
“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….Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.”
Paul is just saying, “If I have faith, I can eat this meat if I want to.”
But liberty also has its responsibilities. Some people wound fellowship trying to make rights out of their Christian liberties.
“Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil.”
“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 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….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.”
This means there are certain things in life that you don’t do—not because it would hurt you, but because you think it may hurt somebody else who would see you doing those things. You don’t want to cause anybody else to stumble.
“Yet if your brother is grieved…” You don’t want to do anything that would break your brother’s heart, even though you have every right to do it. Paul is saying, “Don’t destroy your brother with your rights.” The word “destroy” in Romans 14:15 actually means “to overthrow, or ruin.” Don’t mar his well-being.
“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”
Love asks, “What can I do that will maintain unity in the Church?” We must not do anything that causes separation.
Why should we welcome those who differ with us?
When God receives somebody, you had better receive him. You and your Christian brothers and sisters are in the same family—the same body, the Body of Christ. If you hurt your brother, you dishonor the Father, and you harm yourself.
“Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.”
“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.”
If you have somebody working for you, is it another person’s place to tell him to do this or that or to criticize the way he works for you? He does not answer to someone else; he answers to you.
In the same way, your brothers and sisters in Christ are servants of God. They are not your servants, and who are you to judge another’s servants? It is not your job to pull people down or prop them up. “God is able to make them stand.”
Someone may not be where you are spiritually—just give him time. God will help him to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“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.”
You will not have to answer to God for your brother, and He is not going to have to answer for you. Rather than judging other people, we had better to get ready to answer to God ourselves.
How can we “seek peace and pursue it”? It comes back to one thing: Jesus Christ is Lord.
“For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”
The unity in a church is not in the organization, the music, or the preaching, but in Christ our Lord.
Romans 14; John 17:21; Psalm 133:1
Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.