Preached: October 9, 2011
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus, our crucified and risen Savior, is Romans 14.
Someone judges one day above another; someone else judges every day the same. Let each one be fully convinced in his own mind. The one you considers a day special does so to the Lord. And the one who eats, eats to the Lord, for he’s giving thanks to God. The one who does not eat, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself and no one dies for himself. When we live, we live for the Lord, and when we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore both when we live and when we die, we are the Lord’s. You see, for this purpose Christ died and came to life so that he may be Lord over both the dead and the living. (Romans 14:5-9).
This is the word of our Lord.
“Thus saith the Lord.” “This is what the Lord says.” We hear that refrain again and again in the Scriptures, especially in the prophets. When the Lord has spoken, that’s the end of the matter. There is no room for discussion, debate, or compromise. His word stands as the final authority for our faith and life. For the Scriptures are the word of our God.
But what about those questions of life that he has not given us a direct answer for? What food are we to eat? Which days are we to worship? What classes to take in school? What kind of work to do? How many children should you have? How much money should you give? Where and when should you take a vacation? No doubt many other questions come to mind. We call these things that aren’t commanded nor forbidden by God adiaphora.
So if God has not laid out the details for a particular decision you face, does that mean you are free to do whatever you please? Yes and no.
Yes, you are free from any obligation to earn your salvation. You are free from man-made rules that say you must keep them in order to be right with God. You are free from the guilt that drives so many decisions. You are free from the terror of death that overwhelms the choices people make.
But, dear Christian, you are not free of the debt of love that we talked about last week in Romans 13. In matters that God hasn’t commanded nor forbidden, love does not want our choices to harm another’s faith in Jesus; rather, we want our choices and decision to build others up in Christ. That’s one principle Paul lays out in Romans 14.
But the verses before us today focus our attention on another principle. In matters of adiaphora which God has neither commanded nor forbidden, whatever choice we make, we do it for the Lord, for his glory. And that brings us to theme: It’s all for our Lord. Do all in thanks that honors him -- that’s part one. Do all remembering you belong to him -- that’s part two. It’s all for our Lord.
As Paul begins Romans 14, he turns his attention to a cause of friction among the Christians in Rome. It wasn’t a serious doctrinal error that threatened to destroy the faith of many, such as when the false teachers in Galatia began teaching that the people had to follow certain rules to be saved. Rather among the Roman Christians, it seems that some thought it was best not to eat certain foods in particular meat, maybe because so much of it had been dedicated to idols or maybe because they were still use to Jewish dietary laws. Others ate all kinds of food, recognizing that all of it was a gift from God. As I said, neither group tried to make their practice necessary for salvation, but they were tempted to look down on those in the other group as lesser Christians.
That gives us pause to examine our own hearts. As a Bible-based church body, we stand firm on the truth of God’s Word and know that we dare not compromise any doctrine or teaching of the Scriptures -- and rightly so. But it’s tempting to let that attitude to stands firm slip into areas that God’s Word has not spoken on directly. It’s tempting to label actions that don’t fit our way of doing things as wrong, even though God’s Word hasn’t said so. It’s tempting to think that others are not quite as good of a Christian if they do things differently. It’s tempting to stick in our heals and say, “Why change? This was good enough for our grandparents and look at how Christian they were. It’s good enough for us.” The irony of all this is that in our personal lives we find it easier to compromise the truths of God’s Word a little bit to fit in with the pressures of this world. But when it comes to my own opinion, then we don’t want to give an inch.
So, dear friends, even if we may not have disputes about what to eat as they did in Rome, there are enough other opinions we hold that can lead us to label others as lesser Christians. So whatever your particular issues may be, take to heart the Apostle’s words here.
He brings in the example of regarding one day as more sacred than another. Is it better to be in church on Easter than on the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, for example? Some felt certain days should receive more emphasis, while not neglecting their spiritual well-being on the other days. Others felt that since every day belongs to the Lord, we should consider each day equally devoted to him.
“One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14: NIV1984). You realize that whether you treat a particular day as special or not doesn’t matter. What matters is what’s in your mind. Be fully convinced that what you are doing you are doing to honor your Lord and that it is the best way for you personally to be thanking him. But since this is not a matter the Lord has spoken on, others may have different ways that work best for them to honor the Lord and thank him. So also with those who eat meat or don’t eat it, let them do it to the honor of their Lord. So also in whatever the adiaphora might be, choose the way that you are convinced will allow you to bring the most honor to your Lord. For you see, it’s all for our Lord, as our theme says. “He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God” (Romans 14:6 NIV1984). Yes, do it all in thanks that honors him. It’s all for our Lord.
Now, as we honor the Lord in the choices we make, that certainly means we take into consideration what his Word does say. How could we honor him without being devoted to what he says in the Scriptures? Although he may not command or forbid specific choices, his Word does give principles that relate to the choices we make. For example, he doesn’t tell us how many children to have, but he does speak highly of children as a wonderful blessing from him. If we honor our Lord, that truth will impact our decision. Likewise, he doesn’t tell us how much to give, but his word does teach us how richly he has given to us and promises that we can trust him to provide for us. If we honor our Lord, those truths will guide our offering. He doesn’t tell us what career to choose, but his word does teach us that all our abilities come from him and that whatever career we choose, we want the glory to go to him and not to us -- even in our retirement the glory goes to him. Yes, even in the matter of whether we consider one day more sacred than another, his Word makes it clear that we are to continual cherish his word in our hearts and regularly gather with fellow believers to publicly show that our Lord is more important than anyone or anything else. You can practice those principles either be considering one day as more set apart than another or by considering all days equally, but either way honor your Lord. Yes, guided by his Word, do it all in thanks that honors him. It’s all for our Lord.
And maybe one other point to bring out before we close parts one, to do it all in thanks that honors our Lord includes doing it prayerfully. We honor as we go to him in prayer pleading for his guidance to make the best decision and imploring for the strength and courage to carry it out. We honor him when we give thanks in prayer as he blesses our service to him in the choices and decisions we make. Yes, knelling in prayer, do it all in thanks that honors him. It’s all for our Lord.
But why do we want to give thanks to God and honor him in all we do? Remember to whom you belong and why you belong to him. That brings us to part two.
“For none of us lives to himself alone, and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life, so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living” (Romans 14:7-9 NIV1984).
Why squabble over those things the Lord hasn’t spoken on, when our life and death itself belong to him? Why look down on a fellow Christian when they don’t share our opinion on the best way to do something which God has not commanded or forbidden? We belong to the same Lord.
And look at what our Lord has done for us! “For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life …” (Romans 14:9 NIV1984). He died to redeem you. He died to pay the ransom of his blood for you. He did to purchase you to be his very own. And he returned to life. He rose. As the living Lord he has brought you to know him through his Word and Sacraments. He has brought you to trust him as you hear and believe the Good News of the Gospel. Christ has died. Christ has risen. You are forgiven by his grace alone only through faith in him alone.
How that Good News changes us! You belong to the Lord. Not even death can separate you from him. For he is the Lord of both the dead and the living. He rules from eternity to eternity. And you belong to him. What a blessed remembrance we have when we receive his body and blood in the Lord’s Supper! You belong to him.
Since we belong to him in life and in death, why would we insist things be my way? We want things our Lord’s way. And if he hasn’t spoken about it, then there must not be just one right way. So let each Christian serve our Lord with total devotion to him. Devoted to his word, consecrated for his service, sanctified to honor him in all that you say and do. For you are not your own, you’ve been bought with a price. So do all remembering that you belong to him. Everything that you do -- it’s all for the Lord.
So dear Christian friends, When it comes to what God has said in his Word, stand your ground. Don’t give way if others label you as judgmental, intolerant, or unloving. For you are serving your Lord and honoring him to whom you belong. But in everything else which God has not commanded or forbidden, don’t place your opinion above your fellow Christian’s. Rather search the Scriptures for help and guidance to help you in those decisions. Take it to the Lord in prayer. Keep paying your debt of love and don’t harm a fellow Christian’s faith. And remember the principle we talked about here today. Everything that you do -- It’s all for our Lord. So do it all in thanks that honors him. Do it all remembering that we belong to him. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.