The one who eats everything must not belittle the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted him.
I. THE CHRISTIAN'S DEPENDENCE. "None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living" (vers. 7-9). There is no such thing as absolute independence. The relation of each individual to Christ, dependence on him and responsibility to him, is here asserted.
1. We depend upon the Lord's death. In the cross is our hope of forgiveness, pardon, cleansing.
2. We depend upon the Lord's resurrection. In his resurrection is our hope and assurance of the life and immortality beyond. "Because I live, ye shall live also."
3. We depend upon the Lord's continual intercession. In his intercession is our hope and assurance of answered prayer.
4. We depend upon the Lord's continued gifts to us. The Lord's day; the Word of the Lord; the Lord's house; the Lord's Supper; - how much our spiritual life is dependent upon these precious blessings provided for us by our Lord and Master! "Whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's."
5. This dependence upon Christ brings with it corresponding obligations. "Ye are not your own, for ye are bedight with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:20).
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S INDEPENDENCE. The independence of the Christian is the correlative of his dependence. He is dependent upon Christ, and therefore he is:
1. Independent of external circumstances. "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." And again, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." Even death can bring no alarm to those who can say, "We are the Lord's;" for Christ is the Conqueror of death.
2. Independent of human criticism. "Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him" (ver. 3); "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or faileth" (ver. 4); "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind" (ver. 5). Here the apostle asserts the great principle of liberty of conscience, and inculcates the great duty of charity and toleration. Alas! how often the principle and the duty have been forgotten in the Christian Church! Christian men have excommunicated one another and treated one another as enemies because they differed on some minor detail of doctrine, of government, or of worship.. Even the Protestant Churches, and Protestant Christians, one of whose distinctive principles is liberty of conscience, have sometimes failed to extend to others that toleration which they claim for themselves. "God alone is Lord of the conscience," says the Westminster Confession of Faith, "and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men." - C.H.I.
Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not.I. THE STRONG SHOULD NOT DESPISE THE WEAK BRETHREN.
1. Tenderness and sensitiveness of conscience is a quality as precious as it is rare.
2. The clearer light of the strong is due to God's special mercy and their superior advantages.
3. He who is good enough for Christ should not be rejected by man.
4. Possibly, for aught one could tell, their brother's prejudices might decrease, and he ultimately outshine the strongest of the strong in Christian usefulness.
II. THE WEAK SHOULD AVOID CENSORIOUSNESS.
1. Difference of opinion will ever exist upon minor questions. No two minds regard the same subject exactly alike. Two artists, looking at the same landscape under like circumstances, will behold it with different eyes, and will represent it, though truthfully, yet according to their own previous education and peculiar stamp of mind.
2. It is the office of God alone to judge, and we should be charitable to others, but severe on ourselves. A weak brother, in regarding his strong brother's conduct, was like a man beholding an object through a mist.
3. Supposing our brother to be somewhat mistaken in trivial points, yet God is willing to receive him; and shall we venture to excommunicate and unchurch him, or withdraw from his fellowship? Might not such conduct irritate his mind, stamp deeper his prejudices, and lead him to magnify the importance of these really subordinate and less essential questions on account of which he is despised, and thus neglect or depreciate fundamental truths? "Errors," writes John Scott, "like paper kites, are many times raised and kept up in men's minds by the incessant bluster of over-fierce opposition." Conclusion: The weak and the strong have their representatives in all ages of the Church. The former are the conservative, and the latter are the liberal elements. Both parties are necessary in the present order of things. They may be compared to the centripetal and centrifugal forces which keep the Church in its due orbit of practice.
(C. Nell, M.A.)
God hath received him. — Accepted him in Christ, adopted him into His family, approved of that which the weak brother condemned. Their conduct was pleasing to God because according to gospel truth and liberty, not from laxity or flesh pleasing, but from religious principle. Man often condemns when God receives, and vice versa. Believers therefore are to be temperate in judging as well as in living. God's views and conduct are to guide us —
1. In our judgment of things.
2. In our treatment of persons. The question in regard to a brother is, Does God receive him? The great question for ourselves is, Does God receive me?
(J. Robinson, D.D.)
Who art thou that judgest another man's servantI. THE PRACTICAL CONDEMNED.
1. Not all judgment.
2. But measuring and condemning others by our own standard.
3. This is exceedingly common.
II. THE EVIL OF IT.
1. It is impertinent, because beyond our province.
2. Presumptuous because it is to invade the prerogative of God.
3. Perilous, because God may justify whom we condemn, and the condemnation falls back on ourselves.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)
1. Challenges the offender.
2. Asserts His own prerogative.
3. Defends the right.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)
1. A certain divine has said that "since Jeremy Taylor and Richard Baxter, English Protestantism has had no great casuists." Nor is this to be regretted. "It is safer to leave men to the guidance of those great and obvious moral laws, whose authority every pure and honest heart acknowledges." But as to what are those laws, the world has never been entirely agreed. On the one hand is the denial of all such moral laws. The nihilist and socialist agree in repudiating all moral restrictions. The utilitarian has his selfish statute of limitations to personal liberty. The Christian disciple finds the sum of obligation in one word — love.
2. We are now to consider Christian liberty, as Paul unfolds it. In doing so we are not to forget that "the great and obvious moral laws" of the Christian system are, like their Author, "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever," but that the scene and the conditions of their manifestation, in human conduct, are ever shifting, The open questions at Corinth and Rome in the first century touch us not at all, except as illustrations of a principle; while they may be the living questions of the hour in India and China.
I. LIBERTY IS NOT FREEDOM TO DO AS ONE PLEASES.
1. Nobody on earth enjoys such liberty. Liberty is limited by conscience, by the views of others, by our health, by lack of means, by lack of courage, by hereditary traits and disabilities. We cannot believe what we please, for we are limited by the laws of thought and evidence. We are limited in our conduct by society. No man lives to himself in the trades, the schools, or the professions. We cannot divorce liberty from law. This would be to bring in anarchy.
2. Strictly speaking, personal and Christian liberty are the same. What is morally binding upon a Christian man is, in a sense, binding upon everybody. What any man may rightly do as accountable to God, a Christian may do. It will always be the duty of every man to love God and his neighbour, and to put his liberty under the limitations of that reigning principle of love.
3. Christ bound this as a yoke upon the necks of His disciples, to draw this world out of the sloughs of selfishness up on to the table lands of righteousness, and brotherhood, and consequent peace. Some things are for a Christian man innocent and harmless. If he abstain in things indifferent, it is not because it is morally wrong to indulge, but out of deference to the conscience or scruples of others, or the possible peril to which his example might expose those not so strong. His Lord and Master "pleased not Himself." And "it is enough for the disciple that he be as his Master."
II. CHRISTIAN LIBERTY IS THE LIBERTY TO BE CHRISTLIKE. When a man becomes the disciple of Christ he advances into a higher realm of liberty than that of the merely ethical right; into the liberty, the self-sacrifice, and self-forgetfulness of love. To the man who has put on Christ this is the grandest liberty in earth or heaven. The one absolutely free man who ever walked the earth was Jesus. The truth makes other men free. He was the Truth, and so was Freedom itself. Saul of Tarsus becomes the slave of Christ and the child of liberty at the same moment. This slave of Christ was the freest man in Greece or Rome. To his great, strong nature, his skilled, dialectic mind, meats and drinks and special days were indifferent matters; every creature of God was good and to be received with thanksgiving. But all were not able to make their way through this tangled mass so easily. All could not so easily shako off the influence of the past.
III. THE LIBERTY TO BE CHRISTLIKE IS ALL THE LIBERTY WE HAVE. In this light —
1. If Christian brethren are disposed to stand upon their rights and do what they think themselves honestly entitled to do, Christian liberty gives to their brethren who differ from them no right of censorious judgment. So long as he is true to his convictions in his bolder, freer course, "he shall be holder up; for God is able to make him stand," and in condemning him, we may be violating the royal law of charity.
2. Christian liberty gives no warrant to any to follow the example of such at the expense of conscience. Though it be not immoral to enjoy it in and by itself, it is sinful in the man who thus, against his conscience, imitates the freer Christian.
3. The rights of Christian conscience are above the rights of Christian liberty. And so far is this from being a burdensome yoke, worn from love to Christ and men, it is a yoke easy and light and joyous.
4. The question arises, Are the weak always to give law to the strong? There are limits to self-abnegation. Weakness is a bad thing; and if a constant homage be paid to it, it tends to make others weak. I may think it right, for the sake of my own moral vigour and for that of those who are in danger of becoming morbidly scrupulous, to live the bolder freer life which my own conscience approves. We, then, that are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves;... for even Christ pleased not Himself. It is not the weak giving law to the strong; it is the strong giving law to himself in accordance with eternal principles of heavenly love. Yea, it is Christ, the mighty, leading the way in self-abnegation, and we, who have the mind of Christ, following on as best we can. The infant in the cradle: Is that weak, puny thing always to give law to mother-love? Does infantile weakness give law to mother-love, or does mother-love, obedient to its own instinct, tie itself down to the cradle — the freest thing this side the love of Christ on this earth? But the mother ties herself down to infantile weakness only so long as she must, and for the sake of leading weakness up on to the heights of strength. And so let us do toward the weak everywhere.
(H. C. Haydn, D.D.)I. THE CHRISTIAN IS THE SERVANT OF GOD. The highest designation he can wear. Worn by Christ, angels, the best of men. He is the servant of God.
1. By creation. He was made to serve — to glorify God.
2. By purchase, and at what a cost — the precious blood of Christ.
3. By willing consecration.
II. THE SERVANT OF GOD IS RESPONSIBLE TO HIS MASTER.
1. To Him supremely in indisputable duties. Christians are under obligations to their fellow-men in innumerable matters, but largely because their fellow-men in certain relationships are the representatives of God. We cannot pay our debts to God directly, but we conform to the Divine law of honesty by paying our creditors. The servant discharges her duties to God through diligent domestic service.
2. To Him only in doubtful matters. Upon matters about which there is no clear Divine pronouncement, and in conforming or nonconforming to which our only guide is conscience, our only referee is God. This is obvious from the very fact that men differ so widely about them, and from the fact, too, that so often variant opinions are right. The man who ate only herbs was right — they agreed with his constitution, and were not forbidden by Divine law. The man who ate meat was right — it nourished his body, and was allowed by the law of Christ. Circumstances, however, might make either harmful or wrong. Who was to be the judge here? Not another, for no man has a perfect knowledge of the whole of another man's circumstances. The obvious appeal therefore is to the omniscient God.(1) To God he stands. He must learn from God what is right in given circumstances. If he obeys he stands before God upright. And no man must impugn his moral rectitude.(2). If he disobeys, acts contrary to the promptings of conscience and the indications of providence, he falls. He has fallen from his moral rectitude. But this being a matter between a man and his Maker, it is criminal for his fellow-creature to interfere.
1. He has promised to do so.(1) To guide him by His counsel, so that he shall safely thread his way through stumbling-blocks over which he might fall.(2) To uphold him with His right hand when in slippery places where he might fall. The promise of God's supporting grace covers the whole of life.
2. This promise is very —(1) Needful. Were the Christian left to the instincts of an unenlightened conscience, or to the judgment of his fellow-mortals, he would be most unsafe. Hence the need of that infallible wisdom and almighty strength he has in God.(2) Encouraging. If the Lord is on our side we may be independent of man's censures, and have the comfort of His witness that we are in the right.(3) Admonitory. Beware, then, of uncharitable estimates. If the brother you condemn is approved of God, you impugn God's judgment. Hence the indignant, "Who art thou?" etc.Conclusion. In disputable matters.
1. Let each mind his own business.
2. Let each see that his business is pleasing to God.
(J. W. Burn.)
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