II ROMANS 36
DIFFERENCE OF OPINION IS NO REASON FOR DIVISION
In order to understand this chapter, it is necessary for us to understand certain facts about the Law of Moses. The Law included a lot of restrictions and regulations which
no one could keep perfectly. However, the Pharisees and other strict followers of the Law believed that keeping the Law was the way to please God. In other words, God would
approve of us if we observed certain things and obeyed certain rules. So, they believed that we were justified by our own works. Of course, no one could always act perfectly,
so no one could be saved by the Law.
When Jesus died on the Cross, He abolished the law, with its restrictions on what we eat and days which had to be observed. The part of the law that had to do with moral behavior
was never abolished, because that was the way God always wanted His creatures to behave. So, liberty in Christ does not mean that I now have the liberty to do anything that
pleases me or satisfies my earthly desires. It means I am free from the myriad rules and regulations, food restrictions and special days, which the Law required. I am no longer
to feel that I am justified by my ritual behavior, and I am free from dependence on my own actions. So now I can find peace, and forgiveness for my failures, in the shed blood
of Jesus Christ. This means a total acceptance of and loyalty to Him. Those who have this love righteousness and strive to follow it to please Him whose grace offers us eternal
When Paul speaks of the man who is “weak in the faith”, this is what he is talking about. One who really believes in Jesus Christ, believes that he is free from dependence on his
own perfect behavior as a way of being pleasing to God. He is free from law salvation and justification by works. This has always been a problem for the church. There are two
classes of people: Those who believe we have to do everything in a specific way and follow strict rules for every action. There are others who believe we are saved by grace and
therefore are free to act as we think best in life, in the church or at home. Such people are often called liberals and are condemned for not following the New Testament
“pattern” as the more legal ones interpret it.
Here Paul is speaking to those whom he considers strong in their faith, in the grace of God, and what God has done for us, instead of what we do for Him. He is warning such
people not to look down on or discourage those whom he considers weak in faith. It is a hard order to follow. Making allowances for another’s belief and point of view is very
difficult, especially for those who feel they have discovered the real freedom in Christ and the wonderful gift of the Cross.
At this point, let me pause and suggest how the law-keeper needs to understand many of the patterns found in the behavior of the early disciples and Apostles. In the primitive
days of the church, the times were different from now, and often posed problems for getting things done which the leaders felt needed to be done to help others and promote the
growth of the church. Consequently, they took whatever action they thought necessary to do what they felt the Lord wanted them to do. These actions were expediencies and were
not meant to be precedents to establish a rule or law to be followed by all future generations. Modes of travel, communication by radio and TV, even the handling of money are all
different today. The way things were done in the past needs to be rethought in terms of our current possibilities in society today.
However, as we grow older we see many changes that we do not like. Paul cautions us against making judgements about such things and condemning those who do them. He is not here
approving of any sort of immoral or unethical behavior pattern, just the changes of custom and way of doing things. He also is warning the one who wants to observe every modern
fad not to judge or disdain those who think differently.
All in all, Paul is urging that we love one another even if we do not always agree, and that we not make harsh judgements that disturb our fellowship and unity. Christianity is
in a divided state today mainly because of differences of opinion on rules and regulations, rituals and formalities of organization, worship and religious behavior. Most agree on
the moral rules, but the great bones of contention are over the things which Paul characterizes here as disputable matters. How wide would be the borders of the church and how
inclusive the fellowship if these things were swept away. If we could only love and be willing to fellowship all who love Christ and want to be His people, even if they disagree
with us on various points of our belief. This is the thrust of Paul’s admonitions here in the 14th chapter.