“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Romans 14:17-19
I have my own legalisms! Some of you know them. When I try to impose my legalisms on you…or when I am judgmental because you don’t follow my legalisms then I am in the wrong. And vice-versa.
Absolute Truth matters! Legalism does not!
“Mercy triumphs over judgement.” James 2:13
The Christians in Rome were torn about eating meat. Some were vegetarians while others had no issues eating meat. This conflict caused division among the believers. Imagine Paul, who had followed a very strict diet as a Pharisee, was now saying to the church that dietary laws are not the issue. The issue is strengthening one another and not condemning each other for practices and beliefs.
Have you ever heard someone religious express something that just seemed so ludicrous to you? Perhaps it had a kernel of truth in it or was lifted out of context (read proof-text to make an argument) so that the idea (or person) would be considered correct. It is this scenario that we find Paul addressing in Romans 14 as he instructed all not to be judgmental and for grace to be shown to those who thought that their religious practice was “right” as they understood the grace of God. Paul says to show even more grace to those who want to think they are right because they are really weak in their faith, propping it up with rules. Eventually the weak will grow stronger in faith through grace as the more mature guides and disciples them.
Stumbling blocks is the term that Paul used in Romans 14:13 to help visualize how we may trip someone up in the faith. Never should we say or do anything that would hinder someone in their walk with Jesus. It is my prayer that God will help me not to be a hindrance but to be a building block on which others may grow in grace and acceptance. Ask Him to guide you as well.
Things to Ponder:
Is there something that is tripping you up and causing you to miss the grace of God?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal things in your life/thoughts/beliefs that do not have a Gospel perspective and are stunting your growth in Him.
What is the difference between legalism and not having any guidelines (antinomism—without law)?
Example of Absolute Truth is that Christ died on the cross for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)