Disputed Matters

An exposition of Romans 14:1-12. romansThis message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Bapitst Church on Sunday morning, May 9, 2010.

This may shock you but I’ve actually heard of Baptist churches fighting!  Can you imagine such a thing?  Christian people getting in heated arguments and then deciding to go their separate ways.  Shocking!  I wish it were shocking but the truth is it is fairly commonplace.  The number one way of starting “new works” in Baptist life is called, “The Church Split.”  When you read our own church history you will find that a group of people came “out of” the Clinton Memorial Church and founded Trinity.  A few years later an offer of reconciliation was made and our church minutes state, “the offer was graciously refused.”  When I was in seminary we had no classes on Mondays due to the number of students who traveled a great distance to serve churches on the weekend.  I had a Tuesday class that always began with prayer and prayer requests.  I remember one rather distraught classmate who raised his hand with a prayer request.  “Yes sir, I’d like prayer for me and for my church.  We had business meeting Sunday night and well…there was a lot of screaming and yelling and then they started throwing hymnals at each other.”  I will admit that occasionally churches fight over something worth fighting over but for the most part churches are destroyed by minor issues that get blown out of proportion by self-interest and petty bickering.  Note I did not say there are no issues – there always are.  I am not saying they are issues that do not matter – the often do.  The problem is they way we respond to such issues.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but we Baptist tend to be stubborn, independent-minded people.  Add to that the fact that we tend to have an opinion about everything.  If you put three Baptists in a room and ask once question you’ll get at least 10 different opinions.  If you wed that attitude with passion it becomes a volatile mix.  We’ve got ourselves a problem.  The church is made up of people and that means there will always be differences of opinions and perspectives.  Yes, I know, Scripture is our authority.  Yes, we are a body under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  But what do we do when we come upon matters that are not explicitly spelled out in Scripture?  What do we do with things not addressed directly in the Bible?  Just how are we to live out our faith together in disputed matters?  That’s our focus this morning as we come to the 14th chapter of Romans.

Text: Romans 14:1-12

Paul is dealing with the life we’ve been called to live.
In light of what God has done for you in Christ, live this way.

From this text there are three principles that ought to guide us.

  1. As members of Christ’s body, the church, we are to embrace fellow believers as brothers and sisters to be loved not as projects of reform.  (14:1-4)
  2. As members of Christ’s body, the church, we are to ensure that our own heart is right when it comes to disputed matters.  (14:5-9)
  3. As members of Christ’s body, the church, we are to understand that we will each give an account of our own life before God.  (14:10-12)

So what does all this mean?  As pilgrims and fellow travelers we must form a loving, nurturing relationship that allows for disagreements in nonessentials while graciously spurring one another on to love and good deeds.

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