Paul: Get the really big things front and center

One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.  Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Romans 14:2-3

John Piper on Romans 14, “Each One Should Be Fully Convinced in His Own Mind,”

Now admittedly this is not a very big deal. Good grief! Eating meat or not! But such things have led to bitter feelings, and break down of relationships, and split churches and terrible disrepute coming on the name of Christ. So in itself the issue is small. But what it can become, without a right framework of thinking, is terrible. So Paul uses huge theological truths to give that right framework. That’s what this whole chapter is about.

Paul pulled out three big truths to handle this little problem.

1) In verse 3b he says that we should not pass judgment on a brother in such things “for God has welcomed him.” The very meaning of being a Christian is justification by faith. God has justified the brother by faith. He stands righteous and accepted by God. Beware lest you treat him any other way.

2) In verse 4a he says, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls.” So his second big truth is that your brother will give an account for his life before his own Master, and it isn’t you. Judgment is coming. Better take heed to yourself.

3) In verse 4b Paul expresses his strong view of the perseverance of the saints—the disagreeing and imperfect saints—we will be made to stand in the judgment. “And he will be upheld [literally: be stood (by God)], for the Lord is able to make him stand.” The future of believers is not up for grabs. God will keep us and make us stand at the last day.

All of those huge theological truths are brought out by Paul to give a framework for handling our little differences over non-essentials that can do such big damage without a God-centered way of thinking.

Now today in verses 5-9 Paul does the same thing. He brings up minor differences, tells us to make up our minds (even if we differ) and then puts the whole minor thing in a massive context of life and death. You start to get the idea that Paul’s solution to being ruined by small things is to get the really big things front and center.

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