December 10, 2017
"God’s Righteousness Revealed in Transformed Living"
“Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.” – Romans 15:1 [NASB]
Last Sunday we looked at our liberty in Christ. For the Christian there is much liberty. He is free to eat vegetables and free to eat meat [ref. Rom 14:14]. He is free to regard one day above the rest, or to esteem all days alike. “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” [Rom 14:17]
In Paul’s letters he had much to say about the challenges with dietary laws and certain days within the church. Why? Because he knew that we [the church] would argue about such things. In fact, the early church debated these minor details in a major way. Acts 15 describes a whole Jerusalem council on such matters. Can one truly be saved if they are not circumcised? What about eating non-kosher food? What if they did not obey the Sabbath? These kinds of questions were debated at great lengths at the Jerusalem council. What was their conclusion? Their decision was that none of these nonessentials were required. Gentiles in Christ need not follow Jewish law unless they were convicted to. The key requirement was that Gentile believers be sensitive with their freedom so as to not stumble their Jewish brothers and sisters in Christ [ref. Acts 15:20].
This is where the law of love becomes the overruling factor. If our freedom in Christ causes a weaker brother to stumble then the law of love says to forfeit that freedom.
This is where, too, bearing other’s burdens comes to the forefront. Those who are strong in the faith “ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.” This is a powerful witness of a transformed Spirit-filled life.
Our text this morning describes this kind of love between the Jewish and Gentile believers in the early church. Were there cultural differences? You bet! They were mutually exclusive, and yet called to be one in Christ. This is the great testimony of Jesus. Only in Christ could the two become one. Paul went as far as to call this a mystery until Jesus [ref. Eph 3].
Unity was a great challenge in the early church, and it is a challenge today. Today’s church spans nations, cultures, languages, and ages; and yet there is a supernatural call to be one in Christ.
This call is answered in love that bears others’ burdens.