There are many verses in the Bible that speak to the importance of faith but none are so good at giving us applicable examples as this one chapter is. Paul does a wonderful job of giving examples of exactly how our faith (or lack thereof) can either set us up for approval or convict us of sin, based on our own faith.
It comes down to our beliefs and our own doubts.
I was going to use my new system on this chapter and I did to a small degree. There are a few tidbits of advice/instruction from Paul about how believers should act, specifically towards others.
Vs 1 starts this off – Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. The word “accept” means to take by the hand, or to take as one’s companion, to take into friendship, to receive into one’s home etc.
Believers should have no ulterior motives when befriending someone or offering them hospitality. The ends do not justify the means in this case. Paul clearly states to “accept” one who is weak in faith (this means you know ahead of time that they are weak in faith) but NOT for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. Your motives should be more of a “lead by example” not the “pointing fingers, brash – you’re wrong, I’m right, type of attitude. If you are going to be a friend or a companion, take the person as they are and love them, as Christ loves you.
Paul uses the food example. According to the law, there were foods classified as “unclean” and by eating them, the person was made “unclean” in terms of being able to go to temple and such. Once Christ came, He taught that it isn’t what goes into the body that defiles a person but what comes out of the mouth that defiles the person. In other words, it’s not the food you eat that makes you unclean, but the what you say.
So someone with weak faith in what Christ taught may be afraid to eat pork for example because that was one of the “unclean” foods in the law. That person may feel that eating pork is a sin. Paul goes on to explain that if they believe that, then yes, it is a sin for THEM.
Paul’s main purpose in this chapter is to get all believers, regardless of whether their faith is strong or average or weak to stop judging one another for where they are in their journey with God. God accepted us all, right where we were. Other believers should too.
The terms used for God/Christ/Lord etc.
Vs 4 To his own “master” he stands or falls… same word as “Lord” = Kurios
Vs 6 Notice that when giving thanks, it is given to “God” or Theos – referencing the Triune God but when referring to serving or “doing for” it is done for the “Lord” referencing our Master, referring to God, the Messiah.
Vs 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
In verse 9 the word Lord is:
a. to be Lord of, to rule, have dominion over
b. of things and forces
c. to exercise influence on, to have power over
And the word “Christ” is Christos, the Messiah or Anointed One.
Vs 17 Holy Spirit is Pneuma 3rd person of the Trinity
Paul is again pretty standard on his usage of titles when referring to God (Theos – the Triune God). Lord is used when referencing God, the Messiah. A new reference was added Kurieuo – Lord, a more generic reference, more of a definition. Christ is Christos referring to Jesus Christ.
More word study:
Vs 10 the word “brother” can mean your blood brother, half brother, kinsmen, countrymen, all men, men united in faith etc. It’s a very broad term and doesn’t just mean your real brother or your fellow believer.
a stumbling block
an obstacle in the way which if one strikes his foot against he stumbles or falls
that over which a soul stumbles i.e. by which is caused to sin
Skandalon – any person or thing by which one is (entrapped) drawn into error or sin
So when Paul references obstacle and stumbling block, they are two different words which reference a similar thing. The word stumbling block is referring to more of a trap for you. Maybe more of a 3rd party hand in something or some situation that will cause you to sin with or without you knowledge.
An obstacle is more of a tangible thing that would cause you to sin if you choose this or that.
Vs 15 – For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love.
to make sorrowful
to affect with sadness, cause grief, to throw into sorrow
to grieve, offend
to make one uneasy, cause him a scruple
So the word “hurt” doesn’t mean a physical hurt here. If your brother (any man) thinks it’s a sin to eat pork and you serve him a meal that was made with pork or cooked in a broth of pork, whether he knows it or not, you’ve “hurt” him and caused him to sin. You are no longer walking according to love. God is love right? You could just as easily say, you are no longer walking according to God.
Vs 18 For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
“acceptable” to God
Euarestos – well pleasing, acceptable
“approved” by men
accepted, particularly of coins and money.
accepted, pleasing, acceptable
In the ancient world there was no banking system as we know it today, and no paper money. All money was made from metal, heated until liquid, poured into molds and allowed to cool. When the coins were cooled, it was necessary to smooth off the uneven edges. The coins were comparatively soft and of course many people shaved them closely. In one century, more than eighty laws were passed in Athens, to stop the practice of shaving down the coins then in circulation. But some money changers were men of integrity, who would accept no counterfeit money. They were men of honor who put only genuine full weighted money into circulation. Such men were called “dokimos” or “approved”. Donald Barnhouse http://www.biblestudytools.com
I had to read vs 18 a couple of times to let it really sink in what it was saying. We absolutely want to be found well pleasing by God. That’s a given really. But then Paul goes on to say…and approved by men. Huh?
Who cares what others think of us right? Wrong… that little tidbit up there talking about how some money changers were men of integrity, they refused to cheat or take advantage of their countrymen. Well, Paul made a nice example for us. Those money changers were faced with the temptation of greed every single day and to know that a few of them were men of honor who refused to take advantage of their countrymen, KNOWING that most people back then wouldn’t know the difference of a few shavings here or there, well… that’s just a prime example of how believers should be with each other.
Just because we can see a weakness, or what WE perceive to be a weakness of faith in another, doesn’t mean we have the right to take advantage of them for the purpose of “proving them wrong” or the purpose of showing them their weak faith. That is just plain wrong! (And mean too.)
I am a new Christian. I struggle with my own doubts and bouts of “weak” faith at times and around certain issues. I know Christ has saved me and loves me and that I can’t “do” anything that He hasn’t already “done” for me. I struggle with over thinking things in terms of how I should or shouldn’t raise my son based on a new faith. Every day, something crops up that makes me question if I’m doing or saying or thinking or celebrating the way Jesus would want me to . I try and ask myself “What would Jesus Do?” And then I have to admit to myself in most instances…I haven’t got a freaking clue!
But I keep letting the questions come and it is getting easier and easier to just lift up my concerns in prayer and give it to God. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t smack me in the face later in the day or the next or the next week even, but it means .. I’m learning.
I find myself getting angry over things I never thought about before. For instance, the fact that the two holidays Christians have, non-believers have hijacked – Christmas and Easter. Pagan roots or not, it’s not about what the holiday meant way back when, it’s about what it means now. And for many Christians, those two celebrations are Holy, even if they weren’t “given” by God. The fact that everyone and their brother now celebrates a commercialized, twisted version of both, makes me angry. I don’t WHERE the anger comes from, but it comes up occasionally.
Just the other day, my mom commented on my anger about it saying I shouldn’t be so angry because at the time I was talking to my son about it. After the fact, I was able to pray and give to God again but I wasn’t very open to advice in the middle of my anger.
So right or wrong, for me, at this current time, accepting Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny is a sin for me. It’s so close to idol worship in my mind I just can’t do it. So my faith is weak in that area. I’ll probably mellow out as I become more mature in the faith, but I’m not there yet.
I’m not legalistic in other area’s though, like food and such. That stuff I totally get. I guess for me, it boils down to what is the best way for ME to worship and honor God. I want to honor God in all I do but I feel that if I’m going to go farther with a special celebration, I need to “do it right”? If that makes sense. I know whatever is done from my heart in faith to God is right. Now I just have to figure out what exactly my faith calls for in certain circumstances.
Anyway, I love this chapter and how Paul makes me really think about how I view and treat others, whether they are believers or not.