Living for Others

KEY VERSE: “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” —Romans 14:19


IT SEEMS THERE were a considerable number of misunderstandings between the Jews and Gentiles in the church at Rome. Paul had been a strict Pharisee before his conversion to Christianity, adhering closely to Jewish dietary laws, and Sabbath observances. He learned, however, that these features of the Jewish Law had little significance to a Christian. Unlike Paul, some Jews had difficulty realizing that the Law Covenant, by which they had been seeking to please God, was at an end. Acts 9:1-20 tells how Saul was converted to Christ. Now a great change had come about—a new law of love governed his life. This change allowed a believer much more individual judgment than the law of commandments, which God had given to Moses at Sinai.

The principal dispute in the Roman church concerned meats and days. Some converted Jews, still striving to keep the Law of Moses, abstained from certain meats, and observed certain days. On the other hand, some converted Gentiles, understanding the Christian was under no such obligation, disregarded both. Censures and judgments reigned among them so that brotherly love and mutual forbearance generally did not prevail.

In today’s study, the apostle explains that a different understanding of those things not essential to the faith, should not hinder the exercise of Christian love and fellowship. Paul said, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special does so to the Lord. He who eats meat eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord; and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone, and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.”—Rom. 14:5-9, New International Version

The apostle asked, in effect, Why do we condemn our brother—and why do we despise him? Paul said we have no right to sit in judgment of one another, for all of us alike must one day stand before God’s own tribunal. In giving this counsel, Paul’s mind was on the words of Isaiah: “It is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” (Isa. 45:23) In quoting this scripture, Paul then added, “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”—vs. 12

When offering counsel to his hearers not to sit in judgment upon each other, Paul said, “Make up your mind never to place anything in a brother’s path that will stumble him or prove to be an obstacle to his spiritual progress. By the authority of Jesus, he is convinced no food is unclean of itself. If someone regards something as unclean, however, to him it is unclean.” Moreover, Paul said, “If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.”—vss. 15,16, NIV

In I Corinthians 8:8 Paul pointed out that “meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.” How well this accords with his message to the Roman brethren, when he said, “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (vs. 17) In return for the few small liberties we sacrifice for the encouragement and spiritual growth of our brethren, we receive countless blessings which mean far more to us than those given up.

As Paul summarizes his lesson, he tells his hearers that those who are strong in faith ought to bear patiently with the weakness of those who are not so strong; this is a much more brotherly attitude than pleasing ourselves. Each of us ought rather to please his neighbor—of course, please him in such a way as to promote his well-being and help him to grow to spiritual maturity. For even Christ did not please himself.

The God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus.”—Rom. 15:5,6

Dawn Bible Students Association
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