Paul reminds us about what the truth of the gospel means in our lives. Life isn’t about us. Every person, whether in the faith or not, lives and dies to God alone. The Lord alone makes a person stand or fall. If God has accepted someone, who are we to reject that person by judging their lack of faith?
Paul makes his application particularly to eating. First, Jews judged gentiles because of their dietary choices even though all things are lawful in Christ. Gentiles also judged other gentiles based on dietary decision. Like some believe today, it seems that some thought a vegetarian diet was healthier or holier. Jews had Saturday as their holy day, and some gentiles had another day as their holy day. It was easy to judge others as having little faith if they did not have the same holy day. Today, people abstain from all manner of things, including alcohol, cigars, tattoos, four-letter words, medicine, R-rated movies, technology, coffee, sex, a certain genre of music, and more for religious reasons—because it is either seen as healthier or holier. Paul, here, calls this person weak in the faith. Those who are strong in the faith, those able to enjoy the good things that God has given without abusing them or going into sin, are to honor the weaker brothers who abstain because they still in some part believe the faith depends on their works. The burden is on those who are strong in the faith to honor those who are weak. That is why I try not to have a drink around those who are religiously offended by it—I don’t want them to fall into the sin of judgmentalism. Further, I want to honor them as brothers and sisters in the faith. I cannot judge them on the basis of their immaturity because God has accepted them. Who am I to disagree with God?
Every person belongs to the Lord. That is why we leave it to the Lord to gather an accounting of each one’s faith on the basis of His own standard for each one’s life—not ours. Paul asks both those who are strong in the faith (who don’t abstain) and those who are weak in the faith (who abstain) why they judge their brothers or regard them with contempt. We will all stand before God to give an account. The text does not say that we will give an account as we stand before a judgment seat after our deaths. Remember, God has separated our sin as far from us as the east is from the west. He has forgiven us, never to call our sin to mind again. There is no final judgment or punishment for those in Christ because Christ’s work is finished. According to Isaiah 45:23, which Paul quotes here, every tongue will praise or confess to God. Remember, Christ is changing His people from the inside out—a sanctification that brings natural confession. We don’t have to persuade the people of God to confess or act by our religious standard. The Holy Spirit is convicting. Even the unbelieving will one day confess. Therefore, we do not judge (here meaning treat with contempt because of our own religious code; cf. v. 10) one another anymore.
We also realize something, here, about growing in maturity in Christ. As we grow in maturity, we will have less religious rules for ourselves; Paul tells us in Colossians 2:21-23 that they are rules of worldly religion that do not actually profit us. They merely make someone look holy from a worldly perspective. They honor the person practicing religion rather than God—who is actually holy. They draw attention to the individual rather than Christ. This is why those who are free in Christ and growing in maturity are free from judging others and free to love others as Christ loves His church. I believe one reason the majority church in America has failed to reach my generation and those following with the Gospel is the willful immaturity of generations before—who value worldly religion over mature faith that truly honors Christ. Yet, I have a challenge for younger generations of Christians who have forsaken the local church because it did not seem Christian to us. Paul, here, instructs us not to regard immature Christian brothers and sisters with contempt. Instead, we honor them because life is not about us or our rights. Paul’s instruction goes both ways. It is to both immature and mature Christians.
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