Thursday, July 11, 2013

Unity in Diversity, Part 7 of 33

TEXT: "Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not the person who eats despise the individual who does not eat, and let not the person who does not eat judge the one who eats; for God has received that individual" (Romans 14: 1-3).

IDEA: There are different kinds of faith: while they are distinct, they are related to each other.

PURPOSE: What does Paul mean when he says that some Christians are “weak in faith”?

Romans 14 opens with the statement that we are to “receive one who is ‘weak in faith,’ but not to disputes over doubtful things.” Two questions emerge as you read that sentence:

What does Paul mean when he talks about folks who are “weak in faith”?

What does he mean when he tells us that we are to “accept” that person?

What does it mean to be “weak in faith”?

Faith has several different shades of meaning in the Bible:

AN ACT OF FAITH: trust, confidence, dependence on Jesus Christ for salvation. This is basic to the Christian life. “The just shall live by faith.” All Christians must have this faith.

A GIFT OF FAITH: that some Christians receive. Paul seems to speak about that in 1 Corinthians 13:2. It is the faith that is able to do great exploits like “moving mountains.” Some Christians have this special gift of faith.

A STATEMENT OF FAITH: faith can refer to a body of doctrine. Jude 1:3 refers to a body of truth vital to Christians. Christians in the early church codified this body of vital truth into statements like the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed.

APPLIED FAITH: this faith gives us the permission of God to eat certain foods or not to observe certain religious holy days. In this case in Romans 14, it is the freedom to eat any kind of meat. Those who are “weak in faith” don’t have the liberty to do what some other Christians can do. They cannot relate truth to life so that they are free.

These “faiths” are related to one another:

It is probable that a weakness in PRACTICING FAITH will come from a difficulty in applying A STATEMENT OF FAITH to life.

It is possible that those who are strong in A STATEMENT OF FAITH may be weak in TRUST AND CONFIDENCE IN CHRIST because they are willing to risk the spiritual ruin of a sister or brother for whom Christ died.

What does it mean to receive one who is “weak in faith”? Paul uses the same verb in verse 3: you “receive” the person in the same way that Christ has received him--fully, completely, as a fellow servant, as a member of the same family.