Setting

Paul has been providing practical guidelines on how believers ought to live as pleasing sacrifices to God. A large part of these teachings pertains to our interactions with others, including brethren in the body of Christ and those outside the church. In the passage of this lesson, Paul addresses a specific area, which is how we as followers of Christ ought to bear with those who are weak in faith.

Key Verse

(15:1, ESV)

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Outline

  • Do Not Despise or Pass Judgment
    (14:1–12)
  • Do Not Cause Another to Stumble
    (14:13–23)
  • Example of Jesus Christ
    (15:1–13)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    Record teachings in this passage pertaining to how our relationship with God determines our relationship with our fellow brethren.

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    Paul gives the following reasons why we should not despise or judge our brethren, and these reasons pertain to our personal relationship with God:
    1. We each answer to our Lord and Master (Rom 14:4, 22).
    2. We ought to do all things in honor of the Lord (Rom 14:6).
    3. We live and die to the Lord (Rom 14:7–9).
    4. We will all stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account of ourselves to Him (Rom 14:10–12).
    5. We ought to love our brethren out of our love for Christ, who also died for our brethren (Rom 14:15).
    6. We ought to serve Christ in a manner that is acceptable to God, not quarreling about matters of eating and drinking (Rom 14:17–18).
    7. We ought to honor the work of God (Rom 14:20).
    8. Christ is our model of bearing with the failings of the weak (Rom 15:3, 8).
    9. We ought to welcome one another just as Christ has welcomed us (Rom 15:6–7).

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Segment Analysis

  • 14:1–12

    1.

    In the current context, what characterizes someone who is weak in faith?

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    According to Paul’s definition, a person who is weak in faith tends to abstain from certain foods. Although the passage does not state so explicitly, we may also infer that the one who is weak in faith would esteem some days as more important than others. Such believers are considered weak in the sense that their conscience would rebuke them if they did not follow these strict rules (cf. 1 Cor 8:9–12).

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  • 2.

    Why do some regard dietary restrictions or observance of days as highly important?

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    Based on verse 6, it seems that those who abstain from certain foods or observe certain days do so out of the belief that it would please the Lord. The word “unclean” in verse 4 carries a religious connotation. This word, then, also confirms that those who abstain from certain foods do so for religious reasons. In the same way, different people have different standards when it comes to practicing the faith. For example, some believers may choose not watch movies or attend parties as a way to separate themselves from the influences of the world.

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  • 3.

    Based on the rest of the passage, how are we to “welcome” the one who is weak in faith?

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    To welcome the one who is weak in faith is to not despise him (14:3) or cause him to stumble over matters of eating and drinking (14:13, 20–21). If we cross-reference the situation that Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 8, we may conclude that welcoming someone who is weak involves being sensitive to his conscience. For example, when we are in the company of believers who do not eat meat, we should be considerate and not compel them to eat meat or make condescending comments about their belief.

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  • 4.

    What are the negative consequences of despising or judging one another?

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    Despising or judging our brethren not only displeases our Lord but also divides the body of Christ. Such behavior may even make the weaker members leave the fellowship of believers.

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  • 5.

    Where do you draw the line in terms of what you should insist on and what should be up to each individual?

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    From the writings of the apostles, we can see that teachings or practices that contradict the faith of salvation passed down by the apostles must not be tolerated (cf. Gal 1:6–9; 2 Jn 9–11; Jude 1:3). In today’s terms, this would include our articles of faith. In addition, what the Bible clearly commands should continue to be taught in the church and practiced by all believers (e.g. Mt 19:17; Acts 15:28–29). But when it comes to matters where views differ, Rom 14:1 teaches us to stay away from quarreling over opinions.

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  • 6.

    What does this segment teach about our personal accountability to the Lord?

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    Each one of us answers individually to God (Rom 14:3, 6–12). Whether we live or die, we do so to the Lord because we are His. In light of this truth, we are in no position to pass judgment on our brethren. It is to the Lord, not to us, that they will give an account.

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  • 14:13–23

    7.

    How does the principle of love underly not passing judgment on our brethren?

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    As Romans 14:15 reminds us, if we make our brethren grieved by what we eat, we are no longer walking in love. If we love our brethren, for whom Christ had also died, we would do everything we can to not cause them to stumble.

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  • 8.

    Explain the exhortation of verse 16.

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    What may seem good to us may not necessarily be viewed as such by other believers in the church. For example, we may think that it is good to have the freedom to eat all kinds of food. But if with our freedom we make disparaging comments about certain believers’ choice to eat only vegetables, our freedom could be spoken of as evil by those whose conscience we have wounded.

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  • 9.

    Explain the contrast between “eating and drinking” and “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”

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    “Eating and drinking” here represents things that have little relevance to our faith and relationship with God (such as our dietary choices). On the contrary, “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” pertain to spiritual qualities that please God. These are things we ought to make every effort to achieve in the body of Christ. When we have righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, all the members of Christ’s body are edified.

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  • 10.

    Explain the teachings in verses 22 and 23.

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    The teachings in verses 22 and 23 once again underscore the importance of personal accountability to God. Whatever choices we make, whether it is regarding food and drink or observance of days, we must be sure that we can answer to God with a good conscience. However, if we make certain choices against our beliefs simply because others make them or we feel pressured to do the same, we are no longer acting out of faith. It is tantamount to doing things we believe to be displeasing to God. Such behavior, according to verse 23, is considered sinful.

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  • 11.

    How can we be sure that all things we do proceed from faith?

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    It is important to remember that while we are free to make choices, we will have to give an account to God for every choice we make (cf. Ecc 11:9). If our choices are out of a desire to please God, our actions proceed from faith (cf. 2 Cor 5:6–10). This is what the Bible means by fearing God and keeping His commandments (Ecc 12:13–14). Others may not always approve of our choices, but what is most important is that we do all things from a conviction that we are faithful to God and His words.

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  • 15:1–13

    12.

    Cite present-day examples of “failings of the weak” that call for endurance on your part.

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    The Greek word for “failings” means “weakness.” It does not necessarily denote mistakes. In the church, some members may be weaker in the sense that their faith is easily shaken by the words and behavior of other members. Their relationship still largely depends on the people around them. Such members tend to require more care and attention from the members who are stronger in faith.

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  • 13.

    How did Christ serve as a model of bearing with the failings of the weak?

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    Our Lord Jesus Christ became a servant when He came to this world (Rom 15:8; Mt 20:28; Lk 22:27; Php 2:4–8). He gave Himself for our sake and lived to carry out the Father’s will. Because of that, He had to endure men’s reproach (Rom 15:3).

    We have been called to follow the footsteps of Christ. To do that means denying ourselves, not doing things only to please ourselves. For the sake of our brethren and the Lord we also need to make sacrifices and accept those with whom we may have differences. In all things we need to consider the good of others, and doing so takes much patient endurance.

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  • 14.

    Why does welcoming one another in the Lord glorify God?

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    By obeying God’s will, the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished the work of salvation for all mankind and brought glory to God the Father (Rom 15:8–12). In the same way, through our endurance the members of the body of Christ may live in harmony and grow in unity. As a result, all the believers may with one voice glorify God (Rom 15:6–7).

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