Weaker brothers, truth, love and liberty

Bob Deffinbaugh, “The Great Divorce—Separating “Truth From Love” at Bible.org:

I would like to suggest that we take a good, long look at these two categories of the “stronger” brother and the “weaker” brother. As I understand chapters [1 Corinthians] 8-10 and Romans 14-15, the stronger brother is the one whose grasp of the Scriptures may free him from unnecessary prohibitions. The stronger brother is quite often the one who understands his Christian liberties. But if the “stronger” brother is to be a spiritual saint, he must also be willing to set aside those liberties. To exercise one’s liberties at the expense of a weaker brother is certainly not spiritual.

The stronger brother is also the one who recognizes those things which are contrary to God’s Word. In the case of meats offered to idols, the stronger brother must be the one who knows they are forbidden, and who therefore abstains from eating them. The “weaker brother” would be the one who concluded that eating idol-meats was a Christian liberty, in spite of the decree of the Jerusalem Council. From Paul’s final words on this issue in chapter 10, I think we must conclude that the more spiritual brother is the one who abstains from idol-meats, grasping its evil associations.

All too often today, the “weaker brother” is defined as the one who does not grasp his Christian liberties. While alcoholism and drunkenness are surely wrong, drinking a glass of wine is not forbidden. When a “tee totaler” saint insists that another Christian must not drink even a glass of wine, he should also be willing to accept the label of the “weaker brother.” The one who insists you cannot exercise a liberty is the one who is weak and poorly informed. The one who insists that another must refrain from a matter of liberty because that liberty is offensive has missed the point of the Scriptures. You may find smoking offensive, but you are not a “weaker brother” unless you are so weak that you will follow the example of the one who lights up. Most of those who insist that others refrain from alcohol or tobacco (because partaking of them is sin) are not those who are truly weak, and who will violate their consciences by following the example of the one who partakes.

For those matters which are liberties, the one who is truly spiritual will be willing to forego them if exercising his liberty is at the expense of another. The knowledge which informs us of a liberty must be subject to the love which puts the interests of our brother before our own.