Sabbath School Lesson Review 2017 Quarter 4 Lesson 13
Sabbath School Lesson 2017 Quarter 4 Lesson 13 Friday
“We are now in the last part of our study of Romans, In this, the last section, Paul touches on other topics, perhaps not as central to his main theme, yet important enough to be included in the letter. Thus, for us, they are sacred Scripture, as well. How did Paul end this letter, what did he write, and what truths are there for us, the heirs not just of Paul but, indeed, of our Protestant forefathers?
The lesson deals with chapter 14, then seven verses of chapter 15 (out of 33) and three verses of chapter 16 (out of 27). On what basis does one make the choice, if these “topics are important enough” and “sacred Scripture”?
There are two issues to consider in 14:1-4: 1) what is the issue Paul discusses in his historical context? 2) What are the implications of how Paul deals with the issue for us today?
What is the significance of the fact that Paul does not say, “Many Jewish Christians don’t eat meat, while many Gentile Christians do”? Why does he say, “Some of us do it this way, some of us do it that way”?
“It’s important, too, to realize that in Romans 14:3 Paul does not speak negatively of the one ‘weak in the faith’ (Romans 14:1). Nor does he give this person advice as to how to become strong. So far as God is concerned, the overscrupulous Christian (judged overscrupulous, apparently, not by God but by his or her fellow Christians) is accepted. [God hath received him. [. . . Thus] to ‘receive’ one weak in the faith meant to accord him or her full membership and social status. The person was not to be argued with but given the right to his or her opinion.” (Sunday’s lesson)
Why is it so important that the early Christians (and we in our times as well) learn to live together without looking at one another with disdain or implying for a moment that God is more pleased with one style of behavior than with another?
What are the possible parallels in our day? On what kinds of issues in today’s church are we in danger of judging one another because of things that Paul [and God] would declare to be less significant? Where are we prone to build walls of division on cultural or ethnic lines where Paul [and God] would gently but firmly insist that we are all serving the same Master?
In 14:7-14 Paul speaks about a natural reaction to condemn other people who did not arrive at the same conclusion we did. The easiest assumption is that they did not process the matter properly, and therefore they do not have a good grasp of the Christian faith. This may be true, but it may be completely wrong. There is also another truth, which needs to be grasped even more firmly and lived out even more energetically: there is one Lord and before him and him alone we all live and die, stand or fall.
Paul shows that the Messiah has been appointed by God to be Judge of both the living and the dead and one day His judgment will review the entire life of everyone. A vital aspect of the doctrine of justification by faith is a mutual respect for one another. Christians are encouraged to respect one another and find ways of living that out in practice.
In 14:15-23 Paul asks Christians to recognize that there are occasions when they need to hold back from their freedom for the sake of those whose Christian faith would be irreparably damaged by their own behavior. But, he adds, do not insist that other Christians conform at once to the freedom which you celebrate.
Romans 16:25-27 is the final conclusion of this famous letter. Paul summarizes and honors the gift of joy, wisdom, love, grace, power and glory of eternal God as it is revealed in Jesus the Messiah.
I wonder how the folk in Rome reacted to this. Was this evidence that the one who used to persecute the saints had really been changed? “As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions.” Can you imagine saying any such thing? Now does that sound like Paul? “As for the man who disagrees with you, welcome him, but not for arguments about opinions,” and so on. Then he gives an illustration. “One man believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables.” When we get to 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, that subject is dealt with at length.
So we can save some of this for another bible study. The main thing here is that there is important difference of opinion on eating this food. Lest some of you are not able to come back next time, this has nothing to do with one’s diet, with the menu. It’s just that flesh and wine were offered to the idols. Apparently no idol ever cared for vegetables. Remember in the days of Daniel? The reason why he ate the vegetables was really not for health reasons. That was incidental. It was primarily to reject the worship of the heathen gods, because the flesh and the wine would be offered to the gods.
Now Paul is saying we have a disagreement in our church. One believes he may eat this food that’s been offered to idols, because idols don’t affect the food, anyway. And that’s enlarged on in Corinthians. While the man who’s weak in faith is very conscientious about this, and he’s afraid to eat the food offered to idols, and so he eats only vegetables to be safe. “Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him.”
One of the best examples of treating people who were doing things that were not very helpful and causing a lot of argument and ill will in the church, an example of treating them with dignity and respect almost seeming to agree with them while pointing to a much better way, is found, I think, in Paul’s handling of speaking in tongues in the Corinthian church.
In 1 Corinthians 14 you remember how he handled that manner of speaking in a tongue that evidently was nothing like Pentecost. Did they need any interpreters at Pentecost? Sometimes people say the gift of tongues in Corinth must be the same as the gift of tongues in at Pentecost. But there are many differences pointed out. They couldn’t understand them in Corinth, but at Pentecost everyone said, “We all hear and understand without interpreters, every man in his own tongue.”
It was very different and it won many people to faith and conversion at that time, whereas in Corinth this was causing nothing but trouble. And I personally believe that it was a very different manifestation, more like some of the Charismatic excesses that we see here and there today. Did Paul insult the beginners in Corinth? Or did he say I thank God I speak in tongues more than you all, and he didn’t explain at the moment what he meant.
Now we could understand what he meant in other ways. We know Paul didn’t believe in babbling in ecstasy because he says in that same chapter, “You know, I’d rather speak five words with my mind than ten thousand words in a tongue where an interpreter is needed.” And then still speaking very respectfully of them he simply suggested that there was a better way. He said it would be much better to preach, to prophesy than to speak in a tongue. But if you must do it, be sure there’s an interpreter and just one or two at a time, let everything be done decently and in order. And if they had followed his advice they wouldn’t have felt insulted for a moment, but it would have been the end of what they were doing. They would have moved on to something better.
I think 1 Corinthians 14 is a wonderful example of correcting people without insulting them and making their religious practices seem unworthy of respect. In many cases you can see Paul treating people like this and it’s very God-like. So he says we should be willing to meet people where they are, to condescend as Christ did, and think how low he stooped to meet us. Think how generous and gracious Christ was to the weak, not just in the gospels, but how about in the Old Testament?
For according to 1 Corinthians 10:4, who dealt with Israel as their leader in the wilderness days? Who said to an angel, go down there and give Gideon a wet fleece? These are hard times in Israel. Normally a person shouldn’t really need a sign to strengthen his faith. But you remember the circumstances surrounding Gideon’s life? He never did get rid of his concubines or his idols did he? Think of God meeting him, making him a spokesman. And Gideon said, “I feel so unsure, Lord, in these troublous times, could you give me a wet fleece on the dry ground?”
And when Gideon got up the next morning he realized that maybe it was a natural coincidence that the fleece still held the moisture, so he asked the second night, “God, could you reverse that please? How about a wet fleece, or rather, a dry fleece on the wet ground, that couldn’t be an accident.” And our gracious Lord gave him what he needed, which is not an encouragement to us to expect signs. Those were difficult times and when people need it, as now, if we need a wet fleece and a dry one, or if we need the thundering on Sinai, God will give us what he knows we need. So the graciousness of Christ is not just revealed in the gospels, but throughout all of scripture.
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