A Voice in the
"And receive the one who is weak in the faith, not to judgments of your thoughts. One indeed believes to eat all things, but being weak, another one eats vegetables. The one eating, do not despise the one not eating. And the one not eating, do not judge the one eating, for God received him." (vs1-3)
What is Paul teaching? Vegetarianism? In 1Cor10:23-33 we get a better picture. Just as we read in the O.T. how Israel would bring the "firstfruits" of their harvests before the Lord, the pagans would also worship their idols by offering various food items. Once it had been "blessed" by the idol, it would join the rest of the meat at the market. Somebody coming along to buy "meat" would not be able to tell which cuts had been before the idol, and which had not. So Paul says, "Eat everything being sold in a meat market, examining nothing because of conscience, for the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness of it." (1Cor10:25-26) Idols, as physical objects, are nothing. Wood is wood. Gold is gold. Meat is meat. There is nothing to fear from an idol; they can do neither good nor bad. (Jer10:5) Good or bad is "not in them". They are inanimate objects.
A Christian does not need to fear fetishes. Yes, there is a whole system of imparting spirits into objects and creatures. We know such things are possible and real, as Jesus sent the demons into the herd of pigs. (Mk5:13) And it is believed that the Rock music industry performs impartations of spirits to their tapes and CDs. People have their amulets and crystals, thinking them to possess special "powers" on their behalf. But if a person is a True Believer in Jesus Christ, these things do not have authority over the Christian, who is not worshiping satan. Jesus said, "I have given you the authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and on all the power of the Enemy, and nothing shall hurt you, not at all" (Lk10:19) So, eating of meat will not hurt you, even if that cut was offered to an idol.
However, there are some people, just having come out of idolatry, whose physical minds cannot distinguish the fact that the meat is OK. They were -Sooo- steeped in idolatry, offering their cuts of meat to the idols, "clapping their hands" in worship, (Is2:6); they are so 'programmed' in their mind, that when they see "meat" they see "idol". And when they see "idol", all the memories of those thoughts they had as they used to worship, come flooding into their being. They are not able to eat meat without these memories. Just like, a person who gets bit by a dog, is afraid of -any- dogs for a time. A person who had an accident at an intersection, is afraid of approaching intersections. After I "lost it" making a left turn on my first motorcycle (years ago) when the tire hit the oil spot, I was timid of left turns for several years. This is how we are as frail, corruptible human beings.
Paul says to "receive" the one who is "weak". Don't judge him as being, somehow, -less- of a Christian because he has this weakness. And on the other hand, the one who has this hang-up should not judge, as being "worldly", the one who does eat. God has received both. The one who is "weak" needs a little more "tender care". (1Cor12:23-26) If you cut your finger real bad, it takes time to heal. It might require stitches. Once the stitches come out, and the bandage is off, it is still 'tender' for a long time while all the 'deep' flesh heals fully. You do not scoff at the finger and say "silly finger, you fool..why can't you be like the other fingers!" No, you "favor" it. Nor does the finger scold the other fingers for doing their normal activities. In fact, the healthy fingers take up some of the slack where the sore one isn't yet able to give 100% to the activities the 'hand' wishes to do.
The discussion is "judging". (vs4) And something else often called, "gray areas". We are not talking about Scripturally-specific Doctrines, such as Salvation, Justification, Faith, Rapture, etc. Things that are generally lumped into the word "Gospel". In those things, a "differing viewpoint" is anathematized by Paul, "let him be accursed". (Gal1:8-9) But in a lot of things, there are gray areas. And Paul says, "who are you judging another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. But he will stand, for God is able to make him stand."
The example of "meat" has already been given. What about "days"? There are those who believe that "Saturday" is the day to collectively worship. The "7th day" of the week. Now, some of those who feel this way, typically, also have other doctrinal problems. But, is it wrong to worship on Saturday, and view Saturday as "the Lord's Day"? The Law did say, "remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." (Ex20:8) Those who observe Sunday do so because of Jesus' Resurrection on the "first of the week". (Mk16:9) And there are N.T. examples of Christians meeting on Sunday. (Acts20:7, 1Cor16:2) Who is right? Those who observe Saturday judge those observing Sunday, as not keeping God's Law. In studying Scripture, a case could be made for both views. Paul says, "Let each one be fully assured in his own mind." (vs5)
Whichever day you have chosen, some hold the O.T. Law principles, and do NOTHING on that day, except worship, eat, sleep. They will not mow their lawns, play games, work at any job. Others will do -everything- the same. "One indeed judges a day above another day; and another one judges every day alike.." Again, "Let each one be fully assured in his own mind."
For the Believer, truly obeying the Lord, whatever they do in these matters, they worship God. The one eating meat "gives thanks to God" for his meat. The vegetarian "gives thanks to God" for his salad. While there is One God, and One Faith (Eph4:5), God has created us as "diverse" creatures. (1Cor12:6a, Rom12:4) God did not make us all "clones" one of another. He made us all to be "different". When mankind strove to -unite- at Babel, and be all the same, and rebel against God together, He scattered them across the face of the earth. -Different- languages, -different- races, -different- cultures. The current globalists should understand this. This is -true- "unity in diversity". The UNITY is due to Faith and Doctrine (1Cor1:10); and from these we dare not depart. DIVERSITY is in the Uniqueness with which God has gifted each -individual- person. When there is true Unity-in-Faith, then there is also true Acceptance of one another's diversity.
The problem with the world and current religious pushes for "unity" is that they are trying to get everybody to "get along" through "diversity-in-faith". They've got it backward!
But the Believer is the Lord's. The reason Believers "get along" is because, as a result of that "renewed mind" (ch12), "no one of us lives to himself and no one dies to himself." (vs8) If we each "esteem others to surpass ourselves" (Phil2:3), then, we will not be judging our brother. (vs10) Anybody who sets himself up to be a 'judge' is not a 'doer'. (Jas4:11)
"For all shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ." (vs10b) If we are busy judging another, we are not 'doing'. If we are not doing, what happens when we give account of OURSELVES before Christ? (vs12) We have NOTHING. If we judge, we become like "Suzy" who chimes up after prayer, "Johnny had his eyes open during prayer!" Well, Suzy... how would -you- know such a thing? ...unless, of course, -your- eyes were open, too. Perhaps Johnny is able to pray 'better' with his eyes open? Do you know what was in his heart? Was he praying in his heart? Does the Bible say that you must have your eyes "closed" for prayer? Johnny might have actually been 'praying' during the prayer, but Suzy was busy judging Johnny...not praying!
So, the criteria is actually this: "not to put a stumbling-block or an offense toward a brother." (vs13b)
Remember, "meat" is OK. "I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing by itself is common; except to the one deeming anything to be common, it is common." (vs14) "Common" was another Jewish expression for "unclean". Something to be avoided and not touched. If they touched something "common", they would ritually cleanse themselves.
So, if the weak brother comes to visit, do you serve him meat? He is going to feel "awkward" isn't he. "But if your brother is grieved because of your food, you no longer walk according to love. Do not by your food destroy that one for whom Christ died." (vs15) Meat might be perfectly OK for you, but don't militantly insist on forcing your "knowledge" onto him, and thus, turn your 'good' thing into 'evil'. Your "knowledge puffs up (pride), but love builds up." (1Cor8:1b)
Let's look at another example. Since Paul exhorted Timothy to "use a little wine.." (1Tim5:23) we know that wine is not intrinsically bad. After all, the wine Jesus made was of high quality. (Jn2:10) [And no, it wasn't watered-down "grape juice"! It was "wine".] Perhaps you have wine with your meals. It has been said by the medical community that wine has benefits. If a person has digestive problems, wine certainly helps. But the "weak brother" comes to visit. His life in sin included "being a drunk". The Lord has saved him from his addiction, and he has been sober since he was saved. But physically, psychologically, he needs to stay away from anything with alcohol, because he knows that it is wrong to "be drunk with wine". (Eph5:18) For him, even the smell of anything alcoholic dredges up the past. The host, practicing Christian Love, will forego the family's usual practice of having wine with the meal. And certainly won't ask him "what kind would you like?"
Do you need to stop drinking wine 'totally' because he knows you do it, and he doesn't, and for 'him' it is offensive? Well, remember Paul's exhortation to the "weak" one not to judge the one who does. (vs3) They certainly don't need to give it up when they are by themselves. "Do you have faith? [that it's OK?] Have it to yourself before God." (vs22a) But, in love, they will also refrain when he comes to visit, so as not to parade it before him; as though to say, "We can, but you can't!" And, if you do have digestive problems, you're not going to die because you missed it that one meal.
Again, it's a matter of that "renewed mind". (ch12) If we are "living sacrifices" (12:1), we will think of the needs and benefits of the needy brother rather than merely our own desires. In keeping with the words "marriage is honorable in all [things], and the bed undefiled" (Heb13:4) a wife might undress herself in seductive attire for her husband; and that's a "good" thing. But it would not be a thing "for building up one another" (vs19) if she presented herself provocatively to others. That which was "good" with her husband would "be spoken evil of" in front of others. (vs16)
Here we go... "conscience". How do we know how to be toward other Believers in "gray" matters? Sensitivity to God. That which a person does, it is a life of faith. After all, that verse that is often misapplied (as to its meaning) says, "the just shall live by faith". (Rom1:17, Heb10:38) A person who has been justified, and is, thus, "just" ...lives by faith. This is possible because of the relationship between the Believer and our Three-Person God.
Paul could say, "I in all good conscience have conducted myself toward God to this day." (Acts23:1) And again, "the end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience, and faith not pretended" (1Tm1:5) Notice two things there. The Pure Heart, and Faith NOT Pretended. Pretend "christians" and carnal ones will practise certain questionable things, claiming to be doing them "in faith". They parade their "right" to live the way they do with bravado. But their hearts are not pure. They have also likely twisted some Scriptures to make it appear that God condones some of their activities. But they will intone, "who are you to judge another's servant?!"
But they are pretending. They are "condemned, because it is not of [pure] faith; and whatever is not of faith is sin." (vs23) Their [kind of] faith is sin.
We need to order our lives so that we are "serving Christ in these things.. [being] pleasing to God.." things which will then also be "approved by men." Thus, Paul exhorts, "So then let us pursue the things of peace, and the things for building up one another." (vs18-19)