53. Romans 14:19-23
Everything not of faith is sin
In this last passage of chapter 14, Paul stresses that a Christ-follower must live consciously with the idea in mind that he must protect the faith of the weak. “Everything that does not come from faith is sin,” he says—and this principle applies equally to practices people avoid because they would tempt them to return to old lifestyles and loyalties and to practices people avoid or indulge because of fear or aversion. For example, when someone “keeps” the Sabbath out of fear that, in spite of the gospel, giving it up might cause him to be lost, that person is not acting from faith. Similarly, if someone avoids eating meat because of a deep aversion that prevents him from partaking of whatever is served even when he is convinced it is not sin, that person is not acting from faith but from a deep fear. Any behavior that is not prompted by faith is prompted by fear or self-indulgence, and it is sin.
As we live in the body of Christ, protecting each other’s faith and refusing to criticize each other’s convictions regarding debatable matters, we have a guiding principle from Paul that frames our decisions: “Make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (v. 19 ). What does “mutual edification” look like?
Early in Romans Paul tells his readers his own dream of edifying them. He has never visited Rome personally, but he longs to see them. He wants to impart some spiritual gift to them to make them strong and to be established. Further, he says, he wants them and him to be able to edify each other—not merely by letters but in person, “each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.” Paul thus defines “edification” as building each other up in faith anchored in the Lord Jesus and thus leaving bestowing on the church some spiritual gift that will strengthen them.
This reference to a spiritual gift strengthening the church reflects Paul’s words in other epistles as well. In chapter 14 of his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul clarifies how the church is to use several specific gifts for the sake of each other and never for the sake of individuals gaining power or a platform.
Prophecy, he says in verses 3-5, is for the “strengthening, encouragement and comfort” of the church. When believers come together, they are not gathered primarily for self-edification but for the encouragement of one another. Everyone should come with something to share: a “hymn, or word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must done for the strengthening of the church” (2 Cor. 14:26). Furthermore, if a person is gathered with the church and is praising God in his own spirit, no one around him will be able to join in the praise unless the one praising speaks to the others. Praise is good, but private praise does not edify the body ( 1 Cor 14:16-17).
In Ephesians Paul further explains the function of God’s gifts to the church. He identifies the offices of prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher as gifts He has appointed “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).
Paul is clear that God has directly blessed His body with gifts for the purpose of teaching and encouraging it. Building up the body of Christ involves the members speaking words of encouragement and praise to one another. It also involves being receptive to the spiritual leaders and preachers God has raised up. Individually we edify each other in the body when we respect and encourage one another, when we refuse to hold ourselves aloof or to feel entitled to special notice. Edification of one another leads all of us to spiritual maturity and to unity in the Spirit. It is the means of breaking down our individualistic “rights” and teaching us to honor one another, feeling our responsibility for encouraging each other who are part of Christ’s body with us.
Psalm 34:11-13 instructs us how to speak to one another in a way to encourage peace and edification: “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.” The fear of the Lord is what teaches us to guard our tongues and to speak only what is honest and good to one another. Romans gives related counsel: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:17-18). Hebrews has a related verse: Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
Living at peace does not mean ignoring evil or minimizing its presence. Living at peace is not possible unless we are truthful and alert to deception and destructive behaviors in others. This counsel in Romans, however, is directed to individual believers. As Christ-followers we are to treat others fairly and honestly. We are to refuse to perpetuate or make trouble. This instruction does not mean to live in denial and wishful thinking; it means that we are to be accountable before God not to stir up trouble by our selfish or vindictive impulses.
Further, if we are treated unfairly, we are not to retaliate. We give up our right to get even, allowing God to take care of the other’s consequences. The text, however, assumes we will identify evil as evil and not pretend it was benign. Paul is not saying we expose ourselves to evil without identifying it and guarding our hearts. Rather, he is saying we don’t retaliate. Often we must separate ourselves from evil, but whatever we do, our goal is to live in honesty and peace. We deal with evil in another by guarding ourselves against future damage from them, but we give up our right to get even.
Paul instructed Timothy how to deal with those who have divided or evil hearts. “Flee the desires of youth, “ he wrote, “and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you now they produce quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:22-23). In other words, we are not to allow ourselves to be drawn into the subtle webs of deceit and temptation and pretending and foolishness woven by the clever ort provocative words of others with impure motives. As Christ-followers we are to stand firmly in reality and resist becoming part of foolishness, deception, or evil, however it is packaged.
At the same time, we are to distinguish between the evil and the weak. We are to bear with the failings of the weak for their sakes. Our interactions are never for our sake; always our lives are for God’s honor and glory and for the building up of our brothers and sisters. (see Romans 15:1-2). Also, in 1 Corinthians 7:15 Paul discusses how a believer is to treat an unbeliever in intimate situations. The context is marriage—how a believer is to relate to a spouse who is not. If the unbeliever wishes to leave the marriage, the believer is to let him go in peace. We are not to create strife of compel another to act against their will.
Always we are to live in peace, edifying one another and building each other up in Christ.
The work of God
The reason we are to live in peace, edifying one another, Paul instructs, is that we are not to “destroy the work of God for the sake of food.” We could add, contextually, that we are also not to destroy the work of God for the sake of a holy day. The question we must address is, what is the work of God which we must protect?
God identifies His work in His word, both in the Old and in the New Testaments. Isaiah wrote, “Therefore this is what the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, says to the house of Jacob: 'No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will their faces grow pale. When they see among them their children, the work of my hands, they will keep my name holy; they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel’” (Isaiah 29:22-23).
In this passage Isaiah is prophesying God’s ultimate faithfulness to Israel. The nations that destroyed Jerusalem will be judged, and God will remove Israel’s shame. He refers to Israel and her descendants as the work of His hands, and He declares that they will honor Him and acknowledge His holiness. It is significant that God refers to Israel and her descendants as the work of His hands in conjunction with their ultimate honoring of Him. God’s works are never incomplete. This passage does not refer to apostate people but to repentant Israel. The work of God’s hands will recognize Him as God.
Isaiah 43:5-7 further refer to God’s responsibility for Israel: ” Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, 'Give them up!’ and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.” Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
Again God points out His own creative responsibility for all those who call on His name. He created those who honor Him for His glory, and they are His handiwork.
Isaiah 60:19-21 further reveals God’s claim of creative responsibility for all those who worship Him: “The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands,
for the display of my splendor.”
In this passage describing the new earth, God declares Himself to be the everlasting Light. He says that the people of Israel will be righteous and “will possess the land forever.” He calls them the shoots He has planted and “the work of my hands”.
The New Testament also identifies the work of God. Ephesians 2:10 declares we who are saved by grace through faith to be “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Paul continues in this chapter to describe further God’s work. In verses 14-16 he explains that Jesus is our peace. He has made one man out of the two groups which identified Old Testament humanity: Jews and Gentiles. He made them one by abolishing “in his flesh” the law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between the two “in Himself”, and He reconciled both groups to God through His cross. God’s work was to make on man out of two: Jews and Gentiles. The dividing wall of the law was destroyed, and in Christ there is one new man. This unity in Christ is the work of God.
Even further into the chapter Paul describes in more detail what this work of God looks like in us: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (v. 22-24).
The new self is the life in our spirits God gives us when we are born again by His Spirit. We are to embrace this new life and surrender our old habits and natural ways of seeing things to Him. This new life is a special creation, a work of God, and it is His gift to us to transform us with His righteousness and holiness.
In Colossians 3:9-11 Paul admonishes his readers to treat each other with truthfulness and respect. We have been given a “new self”, a living spirit indwelt by God’s Spirit, and we are to treat each other with the honor and respect due to God’s work. In Him there are no hierarchies of worth. All of us are one in Christ. He is our all, and He is in us all.
The work of God is the new life God gives each of us who place our trust in Jesus. Weak new believers are of eternal value because they are equally God’s work. We have an obligation to nurture and respect and care for the work of God, encouraging and strengthening those who are new in faith. Our obligation is clear: we must not destroy the work of God by any sort of arrogance or insensitivity to a new believer’s concerns. Our job is to nurture them in Jesus and refuse to let debatable matters divide us.
If, in fact, we ridicule another’s conscience, making him feel foolish or inferior because of his eating or not eating, worshiping or not worshiping in a certain way, we are acting outside of love. Such insensitivity to another’s conscience can destroy him spiritually (see Romans 14:14-15). Rather, if we do things or eat things that another believes to be sinful and thus cause him to act in opposition to his own conscience, we have sinned. Our responsibility as Christ-followers is to encourage and enhance others’ awareness of God’s sovereign claim on them. We must help, not hinder, their commitment to excise from their lives all that ties them to their ungodly past.
Jesus used a graphic illustration: it is better for a man to cut off a hand or pluck out an eye than to allow that body part to sin. In other words, we are to surrender to Jesus everything that lures us away from Him and back to self-indulgence or gives a weak brother permission to sin against his own conscience.
Obviously, body parts are not responsible for our sin. In the Sermon on the Mount, from which this example was taken, Jesus moves sin away from behavior and plants it firmly in our hearts and motives. His point was that we are better off losing things that are dear to us, that are part of us, than to lose eternal life. We must be willing to hold everything loosely, offering all our decisions, indulgences, and time to the Lord Jesus for His purposes and His fulfillment.
This passage in Romans is often used by our Adventist loved ones to justify and defend their own Sabbath-keeping, and often we see this passage as telling us to observe the Sabbath—at least in the presence of our Adventist friends—in order not to offend their consciences. This passage, however, was not intended for the purpose of convincing us to honor a day we have become convinced was a functional idol in our own lives.
It is not possible to make a rule we can always follow regarding Sabbath-keeping around Adventist family. We must be willing to stand for our freedom in Jesus and the truth of the gospel when we are in the presence of our Adventist loved ones. God has called us to defend the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3), and this defense includes establishing “rules” and conditions within our own homes. While this passage does not condemn our worshiping on Sabbath with them, neither does it prescribe it. In fact, the Sabbath for an Adventist is like the meat offered to idols among the Gentiles.
Unlike the Jews for whom Sabbath was a legitimate sign from God fulfilled, along with all the rest of the law, in the Person of Jesus, Sabbath for Adventists is an illegitimate “sign” of being worthy of salvation. For Adventists, Sabbath is the mark that identifies those who will be saved. Jesus is completely eclipsed when the Sabbath is honored the way Adventists teach it.
We are under obligation not to offend a weaker brother or an unbeliever, but our keeping Sabbath may give an Adventist permission to continue to idolize the day. The true way we must understand the Adventist Sabbath is as an idol, a symbol replacing the seal of God in the Person of the Holy Spirit. It is not the mark of the saved; the new birth by the Spirit is the seal of God. While we may choose to attend church with Adventist family if we are visiting them, we are nonetheless obligated, as Jesus opens the opportunities, to tell them the truth about Jesus and to tell them our reasons for no longer honoring the day.
Don’t condemn yourself by what you approve
In verse 22 Paul states that what a person believes about debatable matters such as meat or wine (or holy days), he is to keep between himself and God. Further, Paul states strongly that we are not to condemn ourselves by what we approve. 1 John 3:21-24 gives some insight into the matter of what it means to condemn ourselves.
John says if our hearts do not condemn us, “we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.”
Moreover, John states again what Jesus’ command is: “believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and…love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”
In other words, we condemn ourselves if we do things that offend the boundaries of love to a brother or sister, and we condemn ourselves also if we do things we believe to be sinful or spiritual compromising. The Spirit in us convicts us of whether or not we are living by God’s commands, whether we’re being loving and whether we’re honoring God with what we approve.
We don’t merely put another’s faith at risk by approving and indulging in behaviors that seem to give the other permission to do what he or she believes is wrong. We also condemn ourselves before by making our own indulgence and self-satisfaction more important than the other’s compunctions.
Again, this guideline is not to be convoluted to cause believers to honor deceptive or heretical traditions for the sake of the comfort of someone who might believe a false gospel. Rather, in the context of believers who are at differing stages of spiritual maturity, we are under obligation to protect the other’s conscience by honoring their avoidance of behaviors that would draw them back to their old life of deception and unbelief.
Anything not of faith is sin
Verse 3 has one of the most convicting, insightful insights in this chapter: “everything that does not come from faith is sin.” This observation tells us that sin in defined not by particular decisions or actions but by whether our choices spring from trusting and honoring God or whether they spring from pleasing people, either ourselves or others. Why, if the behaviors are not intrinsically bad or good, is anything that does not come from faith, sin?
Paul has set the stage for this conclusion earlier in the chapter. In verse five he tells us that whether or not a person observes a day as sacred should be determined by whether or not he is fully convinced in his own mind about the need to observe a day. He has taken the concept of holy days out of the context of the Mosaic law and placed it into the new covenant.
In the new covenant, the Holy Spirit writes God’s righteous desires and commands on our hearts by His own personal conviction and presence. Our obedience is internal, the obedience of the heart submitting to the Lord Jesus, instead of external—observing rules in order to keep God happy.
Romans 2 explains the difference between “circumcision that is outward in the flesh” and “circumcision that is of the heart, by the Spirit” (Romans 2:28-29).This inward, heart circumcision is what is to define our choices when we are in Christ, not pragmatic concerns. Our sins are evaluated on the basis of whether or not we are making decisions from a heart yielded to the Lord Jesus and to honoring Him, or whether we are making choices based on personal desire.
James wrote that when we ask God for anything, we must believe and not be double-minded. If we ask but doubt God at the same time, we are unstable, double-minded, and we shouldn’t think we’ll receive anything. James’s point is that if we ask God for things we desire but actually refuse to submit to His grace and sovereign goodness, distrusting Him and whether or not we’ll get what we want, we can’t expect to be “made happy” by God’s response to us.
Jesus also taught his disciples this principle of placing their full faith and trust in God when praying for what they need or want. In Matthew 21!21-22 He gave the famous illustration of asking for a mountain to be thrown into the sea, and, if one believes, it will be done.
In Matthew 17:14-21 we find the story of the nine disciples left at the bottom of the mountain during the Transfiguration. They had prayed for a demon-possessed boy, but the demon had not left. Jesus drove out the demon, and the disciples asked him why they couldn’t do it. Jesus replied, “Because you have so little faith.” And again He used an illustration of moving a mountain if one has even a grain of faith.
The point is not whether or not we can generate confidence that we’ll get what we ask for. Faith is not faith if it believes in the outcome. Rather, faith is only faith if our confidence is in the care and provision of God. True faith is a matter of deep heart surrender to God’s will, trusting Him to provide and to do whatever He knows will glorify Him.
When we can give up our inner demand for what we desire and surrender the issue to God, we are then beginning to experience faith in Him instead of faith in a “nice” outcome. True faith is willing to let go of what we most desire in an act of surrender to God, accepting whatever He does for His glory. True faith is trust in God’s goodness and power and faithfulness to accomplish His purposes and promises.
It is always good to ask God for what we desire, but asking in faith involves letting go of our hope in the outcome and instead placing our hope in the love and faithfulness of the Lord Jesus who will give us Himself and His gifts based on His own eternal perspective rather than on our limited one.
In 1 Corinthians 13:2, Paul summarizes the essence of decisions that are not sin: “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” Even if we have powerful faith in God’s faithfulness to do miracles but do not act in love, we are not spiritual giants at all.
Ultimately, Paul’s exhortation in verse 23 tells us that any decision we make in an attitude of self-righteousness or human “deserving” instead of from a position of surrender and giving up our rights to God, we sin. Further, this giving up of our rights to God demands that we allow Him to love those in our lives for Him. We have to be willing to give up our notions of what it means to love another based on our own feelings and surrender not only our own desires to God but also our responses to others to Him. He asks us to be willing to be His hands and feet and mouth and heart to those in our lives. We don’t have to know HOW to do that; we just need to be willing to be present as God’s agent.
When we have the faith that God will accomplish His will through us, we begin to act from faith. Instead of placing our hope in the outcomes we desire, we place our hope in God’s will instead. We become willing to let go of what we want and accept His gifts and blessings as we surrender.
Obedience of Faith
Because we know that whatever is not of faith is sin, we need to be certain what this true biblical faith really is. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9 that true faith is not something generate; it is a gift from God. Even our salvation, which is by grace through faith, is not ours because we generate the faith to believe. Rather, we receive faith as a gift from God.
Romans 9:30-33 explains that Israel did not obtain the true righteousness of God because they pursued righteousness not by faith but by works. The Gentiles received God’s righteousness because they received it by faith. Israel stumbled over Jesus; He did not fit their paradigm for redemption and obedience. They maintained control over their own religious practices and were unwilling to trust God who had performed amazing miracles throughout their history. They trusted their own logic and rational system of belief rather than trusting God as He revealed His own purposes and mystery to them.
Romans 1:16-17 clarifies that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes: Jew and Gentile. The gospel reveals a righteousness that is only from God, and people receive this righteousness by faith. It is not something they can analyze rationally; instead, it is something they must accept with a surrendered heart that is open to know the truth as God reveals it.
This righteousness from God comes apart from the Law. It is not connected with perfect law-keeping. Interestingly, this righteousness was actually foreshadowed and foretold in the Law and the Prophets. It was not a brand new concept sprung on the Gentiles by Paul. The entire Old Testament pointed toward this righteousness from God that comes without holding onto the law. The law, Romans 3:20 tells us, is how we become conscious of sin, not of righteousness. True righteousness is revealed in Christ, and it comes directly from God as a gift, not as a result of keeping the law.
Paul expands this idea throughout Romans. In chapter 4 verse 4 he specifies that when a man works, his wages are obligatory; they are not a gift. Yet the righteousness from God is a gift—not by works. Verse 13 further states that Abraham and his descendants receive the promise that they would inherit the world not on the basis of their law-keeping but on the basis of God’s own righteousness that they would receive by faith. Their inheritance would be on the basis of righteousness—just not on the basis of their own works. Their inheritance would be the consequence of receiving God’s own righteousness and thus His inheritance passed on to them.
This righteousness that comes to us by faith which itself is a gift from God is what causes us to proclaim Christ and to internally grasp the reality that Jesus rose from the dead and is the Lord. This deep acceptance of the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection is a gift from God—and accepting this gift results in our receiving salvation. When we truly receive God’s gift of saving faith, we cannot refrain from sharing and speaking that truth to others.
Paul emphasized this gift of faith to the Galatians and also the Philippians. No one is justified by keeping the law, he says in Galatians 2:15-16, but by faith in Jesus. When we place our faith in Him, we may be justified—but this justification never happens by observing the law. All we consider valuable and of moral merit when we are not trusting Christ is worthless, Paul tells the Philippians. All his perfect, law-keeping Judaism he counted as rubbish when He came to know Jesus. His life’s desire was to “gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:7-9).
Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” It is not a wish or a hedging of our bets. True faith comes from God, and He awakens our spirits to be able to trust Him and know Him even though we cannot yet see Him. This faith from the Living God in the Living God is what convinces us that He is the Creator, that He exists. We cannot please God without receiving this gift of faith from Him.
The faith that underlies true obedience and worship is faith that comes directly from God when we submit ourselves to the Sovereign of the universe and accept Him as our Lord and King and Savior. This faith is what makes us right with God, because when we receive it, we place ourselves under His covering and protection. We give up attempting to please God and instead trust Him to care for us and perfect us according to His own plan. We give up our “right” to manipulate our own lives and instead trust Him to discipline us and to count us righteous in His eyes. We move from confidence in our own piety and effort to trusting God to make us what He wants us to be.
It is not always possible to tell whether a person is a “strong” or “weak” believer—especially superficially. Ultimately, we are asked to honor God by respecting the compunctions of those we know are committed to Jesus. We are not asked to observe practices connected with our earlier unbelief, and if pressured to do so (i.e. observe the Sabbath) when we are convicted that Sabbath-observance is a retreat to personal idolatry, we are to honor the Lord Jesus rather than attempting to protect the feelings of those who pressure us.
God calls us, however, to examine our own hearts and to allow Him to shine the light of truth and honesty into them. He asks us to trust Him and to allow His Spirit to help us grow and to make us strong instead of weak.
Growing spiritually is painful and requires releasing our right to the things to which we are accustomed. It further requires that we give up our right to the things God has given us, allowing our hearts to choose to praise Him even when we face the loss of those we love or our own health and strength.
Jesus asks us to love our brothers as He has loved us: sacrificially and with their spiritual health in mind. He asks us to release the practices and behaviors we cherish that are not of faith. He asks us to give up “hedging our bets” and clinging to habitual acts of piety (such as Sabbath-keeping) “just in case” it’s important. He brings each of us to the place of risk: will we trust Him alone to be all we need for salvation, or will we continue to hold onto what our previous religious training taught us we must do?
Our Father holds us accountable for being willing to see and embrace the truth as He reveals it to us. Our rationalizing and bet-hedging are not acts of faith; rather, they reveal that we are clinging to our own notions of godliness and insisting that if we “accept” Jesus, we can do these things also—after all, we reason, it can’t hurt!
But it can hurt. If we add anything to Jesus for our eternal security, we are embracing a false gospel. Jesus is ALL we need, and He insists that we let go of all our idols—all our religious practices that He does not require—and place our trust only in Him. Further, He asks us to protect the weak brothers, those who are new in the faith. Instead of soothing them by allowing them to indulge in their own “bet-hedging”, we are to hold Jesus before them and resist indulging in things that we know would confuse their tenuous new commitments. We must honor their own surrender of the practices that compromise their consciences.
Ask God to deepen you in Him and to show you where you need to relinquish convictions or private behaviors that are not of faith. Ask Him to give you love that covers sin and to show you how to protect the weaker brothers and sisters around you. Ask Him to heal your weaknesses that keep you from embracing His freedom and discipline of you.
He is faithful; He will complete what He has begun in you!
In this last passage of chapter 14, Paul stresses that a Christ-follower must live consciously with the idea in mind that he must protect the faith of the weak. “Everything that does not come from faith is sin,” he says—and this principle applies equally to practices people avoid because they would tempt them to return to old lifestyles and loyalties and to practices people avoid or indulge because of fear or aversion. For example, when someone “keeps” the Sabbath out of fear that, in spite of the gospel, giving it up might cause them to be lost, that person is not acting from faith. Similarly, if someone avoids eating meat because of a deep aversion that prevents him from partaking of whatever is served even when he is convinced it is not sin, that person is not acting from faith but from a deep fear. Any behavior that is not prompted by faith is prompted by fear or self-indulgence, and it is sin.
1. Into the midst of this discussion of protecting one another’s faith through our practices and refusal to judge a brother’s faith by his observances, Paul offers a guiding principle: “make every effort to do what leads to peace and edification.” How do we maintain our commitment to truth while doing what leads to “peace” and “edification”?
1 Corinthians 7:15
1 Corinthians 14:3-5, 12, 16-17, 26
2 Corinthians 12:19-21
Ephesians 4:11-13, 29
2 Timothy 2:22-23
2. What is the “work of God” we are not to destroy?
Ephesians 2:10; 15-16
3. What does it mean to cause a brother to stumble, and what are we to do if we find that our behavior causes a brother or sister to be distressed by our freedom?
1 Corinthians 8:9-13
4. How does this instruction relate to our interactions with Adventists we love, and how was the Sabbath different to Jewish Christians than to Adventists?
5. In verses 22, Paul is advising that strong Christians do not need to go against their conviction or alter their own standards. Then he gives this caveat: “Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.” In the context of this passage, what would it mean to condemn oneself by what one approves?
1 John 3:21-24
6. Verse 23 explains that we are not to do anything that stems from doubt or moral/spiritual compromise, even if others have a clear conscience about the same thing. Why is anything that does not come from faith, sin?
1 Corinthians 13:2
7. What is the faith that underlies true obedience and worship?
Romans 4:4, 13
Hebrews 11:1-3, 7
8. How can one distinguish between a “weak brother” and an unbeliever?
9. Are you a “weak” or a “strong” brother or sister?
10. What practices or attitudes in your life are not “of faith”?
11. What “weak brother(s)” do you need to protect?
12. Ask God to deepen you in Him and to give you His wisdom and discernment. Ask Him to give you love that covers sin and protects the weak, and ask Him to reveal to you and to heal the weaknesses that keep you from embracing His freedom and His discipline of you.
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