November 28, 2019

We Live To Please God Not Ourselves

INTERESTING FACTS : Josiah Bartlett, MILITARY OFFICER; SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE; JUDGE; GOVERNOR OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
 
Called on the people of New Hampshire . . . "to confess before God their aggravated transgressions and to implore His pardon and forgiveness through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ . . . [t]hat the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be made known to all nations, pure and undefiled religion universally prevail, and the earth be fill with the glory of the Lord."[1]
 
Daily Reading : ROMANS 14 - 16
 
TEXT : Romans  14:1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.  14:2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.  14:3 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.  14:4 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.  14:5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.  14:6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.  14:7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.  14:8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.
 
THEME : THE BODY OF CHRIST
 
Romans 14 
 
In things indifferent, Christians should not condemn each other, Rom_14:1. Particularly with respect to different kinds of food, Rom_14:2-4. And the observation of certain days, Rom_14:5, Rom_14:6. None of us should live unto himself, but unto Christ, who lived and died for us, Rom_14:7-9. We must not judge each other; for all judgment belongs to God, Rom_14:10-13. We should not do any thing by which a weak brother may be stumbled or grieved; lest we destroy him for whom Christ died, Rom_14:14-16. The kingdom of God does not consist in outward things, Rom_14:17, Rom_14:18. Christians should endeavor to cultivate peace and brotherly affection, and rather deny themselves of certain privileges than be the means of stumbling a weak brother, Rom_14:19-21. The necessity of doing all in the spirit of faith, Rom_14:22, Rom_14:23.
 
It seems very likely, from this and the following chapter, that there were considerable misunderstandings between the Jewish and Gentile Christians at Rome, relative to certain customs which were sacredly observed by the one and disregarded by the other. The principal subject of dispute was concerning meats and days. The converted Jew, retaining a veneration for the law of Moses, abstained from certain meats, and was observant of certain days; while the converted Gentile, understanding that the Christian religion laid him under no obligations to such ceremonial points, had no regard to either. It appears, farther, that mutual censures and uncharitable judgments prevailed among them, and that brotherly love and mutual forbearance did not generally prevail. The apostle, in this part of his epistle, exhorts that in such things, not essential to religion, and in which both parties, in their different way of thinking, might have an honest meaning, and serious regard to God, difference of sentiments might not hinder Christian fellowship and love; but that they would mutually forbear each other, make candid allowance, and especially not carry their Gospel liberty so far as to prejudice a weak brother, a Jewish Christian, against the Gospel itself, and tempt him to renounce Christianity. His rules and exhortations are still of great use, and happy would the Christian world be if they were more generally practiced. See Dr. Taylor, who farther remarks, that it is probable St. Paul learned all these particulars from Aquila and Priscilla, who were lately come from Rome, Act_18:2, Act_18:3, and with whom the apostle was familiar for a considerable time. This is very likely, as there is no evidence that he had any other intercourse with the Church at Rome.  (Adam Clarke)[2]
 
Romans 15 
 
The strong should bear the infirmities of the weak, and each strive to please, not himself, but his neighbor, after the example of Christ, Rom_15:1-3. Whatsoever was written in old times was written for our learning, Rom_15:4. We should be of one mind, that we might with one mouth glorify God, Rom_15:5, Rom_15:6. We should accept each other as Christ has accepted us, Rom_15:7. Scriptural proofs that Jesus Christ was not only the minister of the circumcision, but came also for the salvation of the Gentiles, Rom_15:8-12. The God of hope can fill us with all peace and joy in believing, Rom_15:13. Character of the Church of Rome, Rom_15:14. The reason why the apostle wrote so boldly to the Church in that city - what God had wrought by him, and what he purposed to do, Rom_15:15-24. He tells them of his intended journey to Jerusalem, with a contribution to the poor saints - a sketch of this journey, Rom_15:25-29. He commends himself to their prayers, Rom_15:30-33.  (Adam Clarke)[3]
 
Romans 16 
 
The apostle commends to the Christians at Rome Phoebe, a deaconess of the Church at Cenchrea, Rom_16:1, Rom_16:2. Sends greetings to Aquila and Priscilla, of whom he gives a high character; and greets also the Church at their house, Rom_16:3-5. Mentions several others by name, both men and women, who were members of the Church of Christ at Rome, Rom_16:6-16. Warns them to beware of those who cause dissensions and divisions, of whom he gives an awful character, Rom_16:17, Rom_16:18. Extols the obedience of the Roman Christians, and promises them a complete victory over Satan, Rom_16:19, Rom_16:20. Several persons send their salutations, Rom_16:21-23. To whose good wishes he subjoins the apostolic blessing; commends them to God; gives own abstract of the doctrines of the Gospel: and concludes with ascribing glory to the only wise God, through Christ Jesus, Rom_16:24-27.  (Adam Clarke)[3]
 
TRUTH FOR TODAY : "We Live To Please God Not Ourselves."
 
In life, there are all types of standards.  There are individual standards, marital standards, family standards, and group standards.  Each one has its own rules and principles.  There are habits - both permissible and impermissible, that change depending on who you are with or what group you are in.  The rules and habits change because of the standard of the group, whether it is two people such as in marriage, or more than two as in a larger group. The same is true of the body of Christ.  This is what our text points out.
 
You see, when you are alone you have your own way of doing things.  No doubt, you have personal habits and inclinations that you and you alone, permit yourself the luxury of performing.  However, when you are with your wife or husband, those habits or inclinations change.  What you permit yourself to do when you are alone is not permissible with your wife or husband.  Habits and individual preferences change even further when you are with your immediate family - that is, your children.  Then, the standards change even more when you are with extended family such as your relatives.  Naturally, personal preferences and inclinations are more restricted in groups such as the military, or when you are in a public place such as a national monument.  Therefore, habits, principals, and rules change from one environment to another.
 
When it comes to the body of Christ, some habits or behaviors are permitted when you are by yourself, and not permitted when you are with members of the Church.  Of course, some behavior is not permitted whether you are alone or with a member of the body of Christ.  Adultery, murder, stealing, lying, etc. and so forth, are always wrong whether you are alone or in a group.  However, there are matters of the conscience that changes, or at least might change, from individual to individual.  Yet, when you are with other Christians, you must be alert and ready to defer to the brethren whenever, and wherever the Church is assembled.  This means, that if you have a personal habit, or a nonessential belief (that your conscience and faith permits you to engage in), if these matters are an offense to someone in the Church whose belief is contrary to yours, the love of the brethren and of the faith of Jesus Christ dictates that your personal preference and faith is to be put away.
 
As you have seen, there are different standards depending on the circumstance.  As an individual, once again, you are permitted certain behaviors and beliefs - that are not essential to the saving faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you are free to engage in them at will.  However, when it comes to the brethren (group), you must behave in a manner that is acceptable to everyone.  Again, this is what our text states.
 
Whether you agree or not, it is your responsibility to accept and reflect the standard of the group, not your individual preference or faith.  In other words, love will never offend the group at large.  Or simply, love is courteous, kind, and considerate.  Love will not purposely offend the Church of Jesus Christ.  It is similar to the variety of particular and personal habits we all have when we eat.  Those habits change from when we are alone to when we are in public.  This is called manners, and it is a cultural standard that varies somewhat from country to country.  In the Church of Jesus Christ, those same manners are extended to matters of conscience.
 
In the early Church, some Christians would not eat meat because they were concerned the meat purchased at the market may have been offered to an idol.  The reasoning of these Christians was that it would displease God if they ate meat offered in such a manner.  On the other hand, some Christians thought nothing of it.  Their reasoning was, it did not matter to God if meat was offered to an idol or not.  In addition, there was no way of knowing what meats were offered to idols and what meats were not.
 
This constituted a problem for the early Church.  For instance, if you were a part of the latter group who thought nothing of eating meat that you purchased in the market, you would be an offense to the former group who could not understand why you would offend God in such a manner.  Then again, the latter group looked down upon the Christians who were "foolish" enough to believe eating meat mattered at all.  (You should know, the Apostle Paul will address this subject again, coming down on the side of those who ate meat, stating that the idol is nothing in the sight of God, and that all food is a gift from God.  However, the Apostle Paul will once again state that it is better and proper not to eat meat if you are in the presence of someone who believes eating meat does offend God.) Thus, the verdict was the "group standard" - not to eat meat in a public gathering of the Church.  One never knew if there was someone present who objected or was offended.
 
Therefore, if you are going to live in love, your personal habits and preferences (although permissible in the sight of God) must be put away when you are in the gathering of the body of Christ.  This is the best sense of love, which, is the central point of life in Christ.  Love condescends to those who were weaker, whether that weakness is one of conscience or constitution.  For example, men are told to treat their wives as the "weaker vessel." This Scripture does not infer that women are "lesser" then men.  It simply states, that women typically have a weaker physical and emotional constitution in comparison to men.
 
Thus, live in love.  For you are not called to please yourself.  Rather, you were called to live a life that is pleasing to God.  With respect to the context of the subject of the text, this is best seen in how we behave toward one another.

  • [1] Josiah Bartlett, Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, March 17, 1792
  • [2] Adam Clarke LL.D., F.S.A. Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible. Public Domain, 1715 - 1832.
  • [3] Ibid
  • [4] Ibid
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