SPECIAL TOPIC: CHRISTIAN FREEDOM VS. CHRISTIAN RESPONSIBILITY (from Rom. 14:1-15:13)
A. Thesse chapters try to balance the paradox of Christian freedom and responsibility. The literary unit runs from Rom. 14:1-15:13.
B. The problem which precipitated this chapter was possibly the tension between Gentile and Jewish believers in the church of Rome. Before conversion the Jews tended to be legalistic and the pagans tended to be immoral. Remember, this Acts 15 is addressed to sincere followers of Jesus. This chapter does not address carnal believers (cf. 1 Cor. 3:1). The highest motive is ascribed to both groups. There is danger in the extremes on both sides. This discussion is not a license for nit-picking legalism or flaunting liberality.
C. Believers must be careful not to make their theology or ethics the standard for all other believers (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12). Believers must walk in the light they have but understand that their theology is not automatically God's theology. Believers are still affected by sin. We must encourage, exhort, and teach one another from the Scriptures, reason, and experience, but always in love. The more one knows the more one knows he/she does not know (cf. 1 Cor. 13:12)!
D. One's attitude and motives before God are the real keys in evaluating his/her actions. Christians will stand before Christ to be judged on how they treated one another (cf. Acts 15:10,12 and 2 Cor. 5:10).
E. Martin Luther said, "A Christian man is a most free Lord of all, subject to none; the Christian man is a most dutiful servant of all, subject to all." Biblical truth is often presented in a tension-filled paradox (see Bible study seminar at www.freebiblecommentar.org).
F. This difficult but crucial subject is dealt with in the entire literary unit of Romans 14:1-15:13 and also in 1 Corinthians 8-10 and Colossians 2:8-23.
G. However, it needs to be stated that pluralism among sincere believers is not a bad thing. Each believer has strengths and weaknesses. Each must walk in the light he/she has, always open to the Spirit and the Bible for more light. In this period of seeing through a glass darkly (1 Cor. 13:8-13) one must walk in love (Acts 15:15), and peace (Acts 15:17,19) for mutual edification.
H. The titles "stronger" and "weaker" which Paul gives to these groups prejudices them to us. This was certainly not Paul's intent. Both groups were sincere believers. We are not to attempt to mold other Christians into ourselves! We accept one another in Christ!
I. The entire argument could be outlined as
1. accept one another because God accepts us in Christ (Acts 15:14:1,3; 15:7)
2. do not judge one another because Christ is our only Master and Judge (cf. Acts 14:3-12)
3. love is more important than personal freedom (cf. Acts 14:13-23)
4. follow Christ's example and lay down your rights for others' edification and good (cf. Acts 15:1-13)
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