Right, Wrong, and Romans 14

by Tim Haile

       Since we live in a society that is less and less concerned about right and wrong, it should not surprise us that many in the church are similarly affected. Many people call themselves "Christians," but they shy away from Bible language that specifically identifies and condemns sin. It is true that the world loves it's own Jn. 15:19), and it is very accepting of those who are its friends (Jas. 4:4), but as James says, "friendship with the world is enmity against God." One cannot always "please men" and be "the servant of Christ" at the same time (Gal. 1:10).

       The child of God has a higher standard than the world (1 Jn. 2:15-17; Rom. 12:1-2). That standard distinguishes right from wrong, and truth from error (1 John 4:6). In order to stand with God, one must not only commend that which God commends; he must also condemn that which God condemns. People, including many Christians, are so generally opposed to the later that they have devised various reasons and arguments to excuse themselves from the task. This article will address arguments that some of God's people are using to soften opposition against sin and error.

       1.Some will say, "I don't like it when some people distinguish sound churches from unsound churches." It is possible that some have not been taught regarding the scriptural use of the word "sound." The Bible does use the word, and when one applies the term in a Bible way, he has done no injustice to either God or man. The word sound simply means "healthy and safe." The word is used in Luke 15:27 where we are told that the Father had received the lost son back "safe and sound." Notice how the word is used in the following passages:



Titus 1:13 - "This witness is true, Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith."

The person who refuses to behave according to the requirements of "the faith" is therefore, unsound.

2 Timothy 1:13 - "Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard of me in faith and in love which are in Christ Jesus."

All who refuse to "hold fast" to God's word or who claim "there is no pattern" teach that which is unsound.

Titus 2:1 - "But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine."

Those who fail to speak according to the "sound doctrine" of Christ teach that which is unsound!

Titus 2:8 - "sound speech which cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you."

Those who use speech, which is inconsistent with Bible language, use unsound speech, which is open to criticism and condemnation.

       The above passages show clearly that the teaching and practices of an individual are considered unsound when they are not in harmony with divine truth. Individuals and churches are sound when their teaching and practices are based upon the divine pattern of the gospel.

       2. Some have said things like, "You are just a traditionalist; you only do those things because others have been doing them for years." Statements like this one reflect a lack of understanding regarding the word "tradition." It is true that a "tradition" may be a practice that has been handed down without any divine authority standing behind it, but it is also true that some traditions are authorized. The word tradition simply refers to the passing down of a practice, custom or usage, from one generation to the next. The word itself neither commends nor condemns the practice under consideration. For example, Paul told the Thessalonians to "stand fast and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or our epistle" (2 Thess. 2:15). Paul even went so far as to command those brethren (by the authority of Jesus) to withdraw themselves from "every brother who walks disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received from us" (2 Thess. 3:6). In both passages, Paul is referring to scriptural traditions; thus it is true that such does exist.

       Practices like congregational singing, prayer, teaching, the Lord's supper and giving upon the first day of the week are certainly "traditional," but more importantly, they are scriptural (Acts 2:42; 20:7; Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 16:1-2). Wrong traditions are those which are according to the "commandments and doctrines of men" (Matt. 15:6-9). These "traditions" must be avoided, but let no one fear the practicing of apostolic revealed and approved traditions. Such traditions are approved by God (Lk. 10:16; 1 Thess. 4:8).

       3. Some say, "We shouldn't be critical of those with whom we have moral and doctrinal differences, Romans 14 takes care of that." Let it be observed that those things that are dealt with in Romans 14 were matters of indifference to God. Differing parties were neither better nor worse in the eyes of God. God had received them both (Rom. 14:3). Consider the chart below:

God Has Received

God Has Not Received

Man who eats vegetables (Rom. 14:2-3) Man who commits adultery (Rom. 13:9,13)
Man who eats meat (Rom. 14:2-3) Man who murders, steals, lies (Rom. 13:9)
Man who observes a special day (vs. 5-6) Man who revels, drinks, fornicates (13:13)
Man who sees all days alike (vs. 5-6) Man who teaches error (Rom. 16:17-18)

Can you see the difference between what God receives and doesn't receive?

What about us?

We Are To Receive

We Are Not To Receive

The person with whom we differ over Romans 14 matters (Romans 14:1).

The person with whom we differ over matters of doctrine (2 Jn. 9-11).

       Let us not think of the fourteenth chapter of the Roman letter as some type of a loophole around God's positive and moral laws. It is not. The same God Who revealed the information found in Romans 14 also revealed the information in chapters 13 and 16, which condemn sexual immorality and false teaching. Romans 14 will help no one in their quest to soften the divinely revealed moral standard in the New Testament which condemns sins such as adultery (unscriptural remarriages), fornication (unmarried sex), lasciviousness (dancing), covetousness (gambling), drinking parties (social drinking) and the like (Matt. 19:9; Col. 3:5; 1 Pet. 4:3). "The scripture cannot be broken" (Jn. 10:35), which means there are no "loopholes" in God's moral standard. It is utterly foolish of brethren to think that God would say one thing in one place and something entirely different in another.

       4. Some are heard to say, "But it is so unloving for us to be critical of the practices and teachings of other people." It is not my business to define what is "loving" as opposed to what is not; it is God's business! Jesus said, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten, be zealous therefore and repent" (Rev. 3:19). Jesus said His love involved His being critical (even condemning) of the sinful practices of His people. Are we above our Lord and Master? If it is beneath us to pointedly and "sharply" condemn sinful practices and doctrines, then our Lord is "beneath us" for this is exactly what He did! Jesus said, "He that is not with me is against me" (Matt. 12:30).

       If I am opposed to naming and exposing sectarian error then I am opposed to Christ, for He opposed and exposed such (Matt. 16:6-12).

       If I am opposed to the practice of openly condemning sectarian errors and hypocrisy, then I am opposed to Jesus, for He did this very thing Matthew 23).

       If I am opposed to the practice of condemning others for the misuse of the Lord's worship facilities, then I am opposed to Christ, for He did as much (Jn. 2:13-17).

       If it is "unloving" and "unChrist-like" to identify and firmly oppose every false way, then Jesus was not very "Christ-like" was He? We would all think and act more like God if we would hate evil and error with the same passion that God does (Prov. 6:16-19; Amos 5:15; Rom. 12:9; Ps. 119:104, 128).

       How do you develop such an attitude? Jesus said, "Take my yoke upon you and learn of me" (Matt. 11:29). The rest is up to you. All of the information you need is right before you in the Bible. Why not use it?

Tim Haile
7693 Russellville Rd.
Bowling Green, KY. 42101
(270) 842-5354

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