August 8, 2021

Harmony in the Church (part 1)


I will not say something new, but we are very different from each other… A few examples: homeschool or public school, try to keep you native language or fully switch to English, guns or no guns, going to army is ok or not, reformed theology or not, vaccines or no vaccines, stay home wife or working mom, women wearing head covering or not, drums in church or no drums, eating meat or vegetarians, eating pork or not, wearing masks or not, and the most controversial… add creamer to coffee or drinking black coffee ☺

When this questions arises, everyone turns to Scriptures, and as a rule, all parties find biblical support for their point of view. And here, we have the text that speaks of the weak and the strong, and we all automatically place our opponents in the weak category, and modestly place ourselves in the category of the strong.

I hope you understand the urgency of the issue, and the importance of this text in resolving many differences between us. So, this text begins a long conversation on how people with different opinions on some issues can still remain in the same church (this does not apply to the  fundamental things like the Gospel or the authority of Scripture).

We’ll define the problems in more details, and then see how the text begins to solve those problems for us.

I. Disharmony due to Differences

Historical context: In 49 AD, the Roman emperor Claudius expelled most of the Jews from Rome, leaving only gentiles in the church. From the minority, the gentiles become the majority. In 54 AD, when Nero becomes emperor, many Jews returned to Rome, since the policy toward the Jews have changed. But now, they become the minority in the church. To further complicated matters, religious differences are added to racial and cultural differences. Roman paganism and Judaism against Christianity. When it came to simple shopping, the owners of the Jewish butcher shops, would not sell meat to Jewish Christians as to apostates, and the Gentile Christians, could not buy meat from the Romans, because most of this mean was slaughtered on pagan alters as the offerings to pagan idols; of course those statues did not eat meat, so the meat then was taken and sold through butcher shops, often at discount price. Many Christians refused to eat meat. Others, however, wen and bought the meant offered to idols, realizing that the idols are nothing, and that there is only One, True God! As result, some were despising the others, and others, were judging the rest.

A. Different Opinions (v. 1)

What happens in our hearts when we are confronted with a different opinion? Our resonce is: “you have totally opposite point of view, great! Let me just change my opinion, and renounce what I thought of before in your favor…” Not so fast! When we meet a person who has a different opinion, we suddenly realize that the whole mission of our llife in an instance becomes to change the mind of this poor, lost parent who doesn’t believe in home schooling… often this leads to…

  • Conflicts (v. 1)
  • Unwelcoming atmosphere (v. 1)

Next time you walk in the room, just trace where will you turn…

B. Different Practices (vv. 2, 5)

Different opinions about food and days. This is how people lived. And the most interesting thing is that Paul does not force one or the other to change their minds. He leaves these differences in the church. He does not represent the church as a homogeneous mass where everyone is similarly dressed, same hairstyle, drives the same Toyotas, has the same opinion about everything… He leaves the issue of differences untouched!!!!

Doesn’t it bother you? I’m not bothered at all!

C. Different levels of faith (vv. 1-4)

As I said, if you now ask everyone to raise their hands those who consider themselves spiritually strong or mature or week… ☺

How do we identify the strong or the weak in faith? (good question)

(vv. 1-3) – the strong eats everything (but that’s not the point), but (v. 3) says that the strong despises the weak… humiliates, scorns. And the weak (v. 3) – judges, or condemns, or passes judgment.

An example of coffee: I will categorize myself as a weak in coffee drinking because I add creamer. How do I come up with such conclusion? Because if you have ever met people who drink black coffee, they look at all the weak with contempt… there is an even weaker category, they go so far as to add sugar too… now, I look down on those people as weak. Those who add creamer and sugar, judge the rest because they see them as hypocrites, judgmental, that they are arrogant, and think too highly of themselves, when they are honest.

I want to see the heart of the problem.

This is how we check if we are strong or weak – if you look down on others, or despiser them – you are strong in faith, and if you condemn and pass judgment on others – you are weak.

Conclusion – both are at fault! Neither is good!

Solution is not in here! 

Now–challenge for children to draw what we are about to talk (prizes)

This conversation reveals the heart issue; we have a heart, we have causes of conflict (different opinions), we have responses (despising and judging). But the problem is in the heart. In each heart there is the throne, and on that throne there must be God, but at times, some idols climb up, and capture that throne – our opinions!!!! like vaccination, education… 

Worldly psychology goes after the causes by eliminating them, or after the reaction – just stop it. But biblical approach goes right at the root of the problem!!!! We have not developed abilities to identify idols of the heart. 

II. Harmony in spite of Differences

Differences will remain, but harmony and unity are still possible. How?

(glad you asked) ☺

A. In understanding of God (vv. 3-4)

– (v. 3) God accepted both, the weak and the strong (we are all beggars before God)

– (v. 4a) God is the Lord of all – if you are a believer, God is the Lord of all! People don’t have to report to you, they already have a Master, and He will judge everyone!

– (v. 4b) God works with every person in the same way! God has no favorites (only the strong, or only the weak).

B. In accepting one another (vv. 1, 5)

– (v. 1) – “to accept” is an imperative mood (it’s a command)

– (v. 5) Of all the texts, this one is the most amazing. The fact is that Paul, not only allows different opinions in the church on secondary issues, but in this text he says that we must have convictions, and we must act according to our conscience. Yes, we recognize that a poorly informed conscience can hold a person back in development. 

(1 Cor. 8:6-8) – the weakness of some is associated with a lack of knowledge (v. 7). This is why we spend so much time on teaching!

And the appeal is the following – first of all, consider your conscience! And do not impose your conscience on the conscience of others!

-(v. 6) Every believer makes decisions that bring glory to God as much as possible! This is where conviction is rooted! If you eat, then for God’s sake, if you don’t, then for God’s sake too! Therefore, it will be easier for us to accept each other if we ourselves personally do everything for the glory of God, and trust that others also do it for the glory of God. Here is the bottom line – do you trust the good motives of others, or have you long ago turned into cynic who sees through people, and came to the conclusion that there are no real Christians.

We can live peacefully with different opinions of they do not violate the clear principles of Scripture and do all for God’s glory.

And now the word to our guests: Perhaps you look at Christianity with caution, thinking that it is some sort of a sect. Today’s text says that this is not so… we cannot even agree on vaccination, or how to drink coffee, and which schools to go to… We obviously have different opinions on many issues, but we all agree on one thing – this world was created by God and he did not just randomly happen out of nothing, we also agree that every person has eternal soul, we all have sinned or violated God’s law, but instead of just punishment, believing in Jesus, we receive forgiveness of sins, since He paid for us on the cross.

Moreover, there is often another argument against joining the Church – “I don’t want to be a believer, because I will need to become a close of everyone else…” This is far from reality – today’s text makes it clear that we are different in some areas. But it is true that if you trust Jesus for your salvation, you will be like other believers – you will love God and your neighbor. Is this something to be avoided? Absolutely not!

More Sermons