Grace For The Journey
As we study the New Testament and particularly the difficult topics dealt with in Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8, 9, and 10:23-33, we find that . . .
Christians tend to fall into
Five different categories depending
On how they understand and respond
To their liberty in Christ.
I want to look at these areas in my blog today.
(1) The Weaker Brother
An analysis of these passages reveals four weaknesses which define the weaker brother.
He is weak in faith (Romans 14:1-2; cf. 22-23).
Faith as used here means “a firm, intelligent agreement and conviction based on Scripture that something is okay or not okay.” The Greek text has “the faith” which refers to the body of truth which is to be taken in faith, but due to context (verses 2 and 14), the article should be taken as a personal pronoun, “his faith.”
The biblical definition of faith
Does not apply only to salvation.
It is equally applicable to
The rest of the Christian life.
Faith, as taught in the Bible,
Means we are to not only believe
What God says in the Bible,
We are also to obey it.
We are not only to believe the promises of God,
We are to live by those promises.
We are to agree with the truth of God’s Word,
We are to allow ourselves
To be transformed by it (Romans 12:2).
Why is this definition of faith so important? Why must acting on the truth accompany agreeing with the truth facts? Because “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6); because without faith, we cannot be saved John 3:16); because without faith, the Christian life cannot be what God intends it to be (John 10:10).
He is weak in knowledge (1 Corinthians 8:7; cf. Romans 14:14).
This is the reason for his lack of conviction – a lack of biblical understanding of God’s grace. His faith is either misinformed or lacking in biblical content which included three issues:
- He did not realize the idol was nothing. He had not seen the implications that “there is only one true God” (1 Corinthians 8:4-5).
- He did not know that food offered to “a nothing” would not spiritually affect him and that it could not be unclean in itself (Romans 14:14).
- He do not understand that food cannot commend us to God, that food in itself has no spiritual bearing on our spiritual lives (1 Corinthians 8:8).
He is weak in conscience
This means his conscience is based on human standards and norms and is overly sensitive, condemning him for things the Biblee does not (1 Corinthians 8:7; 10, 12).
He is weak in his will
He is weak in his will because he can be influenced to do something contrary to his conscience, or to act without becoming fully convinced by Scripture that something is either right or wrong. In this case, the weaker person acts on the example of the stronger believer without biblical conviction and faith. This violates his conscience, and so causes him to sin against the Lord (1 Corinthians 8:10).
The weaker brother is any believer who, because of the weakness of his faith, conscience, knowledge, and will, can be influenced to sin against his conscience by the example or life style of a stronger brother. The weaker brother is not just a new or immature believer; he is not a Christian who happens to differ with you or me on some issue, but he or she is one who can be influenced to act contrary to their conscience or personal convictions (Romans 14:23; 1 Corinthians 8:9-12).
(2) The Stronger Brother
Conversely the stronger brother of Romans 15:1 is the one who is strong in his faith (conviction) (Romans 14:22), knowledge of grace, and what is truly right or wrong (1 Corinthians 8:7, 10; Romans 14:14) in his conscience (Romans 14:22), and will (1 Corinthians 10:10; Romans 11:14). The stronger brother is the believer who is certain of his biblical convictions, understands his freedom in Christ, and exercises his liberty without doubting and without being improperly influenced by differing opinions or behavior.
(3) The Pharisee Believer
Warnings in the Bible regarding being judgmental of others such as Matthew 7:1-3 undoubtedly had in mind the Pharisees. The Pharisee mentality is a problem among all people, and God’s people are not exempt because we still have old patterns that need to be dealt with along with a sinful nature that wars against the Spirit (Galatians 5:16).
Not understanding God’s righteousness in Christ, this type of believer works to gain God’s righteousness or to be accepted of God (Romans 14:1-10). The tendency is for such believers to look down on those who do not do and believe as they do in regard to debatable issues. This was one of the problems for the church at Galatia (Galatians. 5:1-15). Romans 16:17 warns about those who cause dissensions, and a critical spirit is associated with such people. Those involved in the fan clubs mentioned in 1 Corinthians 3:3 were critical of others in an effort to promote their favorite teacher. In fact, Paul warns of this in 1 Corinthians 4:3 (cf. also 2 Corinthians 10:7-12; 4:6).
This believer is characterized by a number of things.
- He lacks in biblical understanding of the believer’s freedom in Christ and his deliverance from the works of the law, or from human works as a means of salvation or spirituality. So he is a legalist. Legalism is not simply the conviction certain things are wrong, nor the avoidance of certain things; rather it is an observance or an avoidance done in order to merit favor with God.
- He has very strong convictions about his list of taboos, but his convictions are based primarily on his own background and prejudices rather than the teaching of the Bible.
- He is often strong willed. He is able to resist pressure from others to conform to their standards. He tends not to be influenced by the example of others and often takes religious pride in his taboos, for to him they are a sign of his super-spirituality.
- Above all, he tends to be hyper-critical and judgmental and seeks to get others to conform to his opinions. Those who will not conform he rejects and refuses to accept.
- He is usually not too hungry for the in-depth study of Scripture. He tends to be superficial and an externalist.
(4) The Stumbling Block Believer
This believer (cf. Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 8:9-13) may have all the characteristics of the stronger brother, only he uses his liberty without regard to biblical guidelines for the use of liberty,( i.e., the biblical principles which govern behavior in the questionable things). The majority of 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14 and 15 are aimed at this type of believer, or at keeping the stronger believer from misusing his or her liberty. This is a believer who is weak on LOVE and concern for the One Another responsibilities laid out in the New Testament.
(5) The Servant-Type Believer
This believer (cf. Romans 15:1; Galatians 5) too has all the characteristics of the stronger believer, but he is not in bondage to his emancipation. He forgoes his liberty, out of love, for the sake of others, whenever it might harm another believer, hurt his testimony with unbelievers, or in essence break any one of the cardinal principles necessary for exercising our liberty, and for guiding us as to when we should or should not do certain things. The servant-type believer is strong on love and follows the model of His Savior. He pursues the things which make for peace and the edification of one another. Rather than becoming a stumbling block, he seeks to be a stepping stone.
What type of believer are you? What is God showing you that you need to become so that you can be the type of believer that will honor Him and further His kingdom?
This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”