Conscience

The following are adaptations of notes I took last Sunday at church from a sermon preached by Andy Naselli. The full sermon video and audio can be found here.

Romans 14:1-15:7 is a commonly talked about passage among Christians, which I feel is often used for us to justify either doing or not doing specific things we feel are or are not morally right for Christians to do.

How should you relate to fellow Christians who disagree on disputable matters? This is to say, not first-tier issues, i.e. salvation is through faith alone, by grace alone. Disputable matters are actions and observances that Christians may disagree on being permissible in the Christian life.

The main goal is not to agree with each other on disputable matters, but to love (“welcome”) each other. This is Paul’s MAIN point.

3 issues brought up in the passage:

  1. v. 2-Food
  2. v. 5-Days
  3. v. 21-Wine

Correlating issues in modern time:

  1. Meats that we are free to eat
  2. Working on Sunday
  3. Consumption of alcohol
  4. Bible versions (not a correlating issue to Paul’s but relevant enough to mention)

The “weak in faith” were probably Jewish Christians who felt the need to keep the old laws for salvation.

Paul doesn’t give the theological answer to these disputable matters rather, he recognized that consciences were involved, and for someone to violate their conscious intentionally, whether the thing itself is wrong or not, would be a sin.

His main point is that we should treat each other properly (love one another) while holding opposing view points.

12 Principles:

I. (vv. 1-2): Welcome those who disagree with you.

–a weak conscience would mean you are theologically incorrect but not heretical (i.e. your conscience does not allow you to do something that is lawful.)

II. (vv. 3-4): Those who have freedom of conscience must not look down on those who don’t.

III. (vv. 3-4): Those whose consciences restricts them, must not judge those whose don’t.

—God himself welcomes them. Can you pass judgment on someone God does not? (v. 4)

—Be generous towards others and strict on yourself, whether you are the stronger or the weaker brother.

IV. (v. 5): Each believer must be fully convinced of their position in their own conscience.

—That does not mean your conscience is always theologically correct.

V. (vv. 6-9): Assume that others are partaking or abstaining for the glory of God.

VI. (vv. 10-12): Do not judge each other in these matters because we will all someday stand before the judgment seat of God.

VII. (vv. 13-15): Your freedom to eat meat is correct, but don’t let your freedom destroy the faith of a weak brother.

—If the weaker brother simply does not like/agree with, or is even simply offended by what the stronger does, that is an issue that lies with them. Their being offended is not the same as their being caused to stumble. The weaker cannot impose their beliefs on the stronger on the basis of their offense. However, if the stronger causes the weaker to sin against their conscience then is it the stronger in faith who is guilty. The stronger also has no right to lord their freedom over the weaker.

—Calibrating your conscience vs suppressing your conscience: to suppress is to violate what you believe to be wrong. To calibrate is to theologically correct your conscience’s thoughts towards something, and, though it may even feel odd at first, to act with freedom. Again, this is after having established theologically the rightness of the action/observance/partaking.

VIII. (vv. 16-17): Disagreements are not of first importance in the kingdom of God, building one another up in righteousness, peace, and joy are.

IX. (vv. 21): If you have freedom don’t flaunt it; if you don’t, do not restrict others.

X. (vv. 22-23): A person who lives according to their conscience is blessed. If you go against your conscience at all, your are sinning, whether you are theologically correct or not.

XI. (vv. 15:1-7): We must follow the example of Christ and put others first.

XII (v. 7): We glorify God when we welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us.

Be willing to discuss these disputable issues, do not judge one another for your adherence to your consciences (whether you believe you have more freedom or less), and welcome one another. Paul did not answer the disputable issues he brought up because he wants to establish a larger principle that Christians need to follow based off of Christ’s example.

Without compromise or violation, love one another.

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