Published by
Mt. Baker church of Christ
Bellingham, WA (1860 Mt. Baker HWY)
(360) 752-2692

Editor/Evangelist  Joe R. Price
Volume VIII,  Number 15
Oct 10, 2004

"All material is written by Joe R. Price, unless otherwise noted."

Times of services:

Bible Classes............9:30 AM
Worship......10:30 & 6:00 PM

Bible Classes............7:00 PM

Web sites:

"...Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers..." (1 Peter 5:2)
Morris Bass, Rick Holt , Joe Price

"...let them serve as deacons, being found blameless..." (1 Tim. 3:10)
Aaron Bass, Rich Brooks, Mike Finn
John Hague, Dan Head

"And take...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17)

In this issue:

Statement of Clarification

The "Forgotten Side" of Romans 14
Joe R. Price

Does Romans 14 have practical application for Christians today? Or, is the passage to be relegated to a position of past relevancy without present purpose? How we answer this question will go far in helping us understand how revealed truth has a range of application that must be respected by all who are "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3).

Romans 14 does not sanction unity in doctrinal and moral diversity (2 Jno. 9-11; Gal. 1:6-10; 1 Cor. 4:6, 17 and other verses expose this error). It is wrong to conclude that all areas of application fall into the realm of judgment. Along with the apostle and in harmony with the Lord's authority, we continue to plead that Christians "all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Cor. 1:10).

At the same time, there are some areas in the application of truth that the Lord has left to personal judgment. When we forget the proper role and use of Romans 14, unity among the people of God is hindered. It is truly tragic that the very purpose for which the apostle wrote Romans 14 in the first place - how to remain united in truth when brethren conscientiously differ on some specific items or details in their application of revealed truth - is the very point we fail to grasp and use in our plea for unity.

At the heart of properly understanding and applying Romans 14 is the reality that there will be differences in how brethren make specific applications of truth. Of course, that application must not violate the word of God, and that is the crucial point here.

It is not "getting soft" and "compromising with error" to point out areas of legitimate differences in the application of truth. Did Paul compromise with error when he said the meat-eater could eat meat? The herb-eater may have been inclined to think so, but it would have been a wrong conclusion. Did Paul compromise with error when he told the herb-eater to not eat meat? The meat-eater may have been inclined to think so, but it would have been a wrong conclusion. Did Paul compromise the truth of God when he acknowledged a brother could esteem one day above another? No, he did not. (Rom. 14:1-6)

Yet, someone responds, "There can only be one correct application of truth. You are condoning error and compromise with such talk." If that judgment is true and just, then the apostle Paul greatly erred by allowing both the meat-eater and the herb-eater to continue their different conduct with fully assured minds (14:1-5, 23).

The truth of the matter had indeed been revealed: meat does not commend man to God (1 Cor. 8:8); all meat is clean (Mk. 7:19). Yet, there is no divine directive that compels one to eat meat. Conscience may restrain one from its consumption. Thus, accepting the truth that meat is clean also allows us to make different applications of that truth without sin. For example, it was that very area of judgment Paul appealed to in 1 Corinthians 8 to teach the meat-eater to lay aside his right to eat meat for the sake of the brother with a weak conscience (who could otherwise be emboldened to eat in violation of his conscience and sin, 1 Cor. 8:7-13). While "all things are lawful for me", Paul also said, "not all things are helpful" (1 Cor. 10:23). Some times he would eat meat and at other times he would refrain. He would make different applications of the same truth without in anyway sinning against the Lord or His brother (1 Cor. 8:13; 10:31-33).

Consider another example of a revealed truth where application can vary without sin: the truth that God is to be held in reverence. The Scriptures emphatically command us to revere God and only worship Him (Prov. 3:7; Eccl. 12:13; Matt. 10:28; 1 Pet. 2:17).

There is no doubt that our words must show reverence for Almighty God (Psa. 19:14; 51:15; Col. 3:17). But the question arises, how do we apply the principle of reverence to our speech? In an effort to show reverence for God, some good brethren have come to the conclusion that God must be addressed in prayer with the pronouns "Thee" and "Thou". Other equally good brethren reverently address God in prayer using the pronouns "You" and "Your". Both recognize the need for reverent speech before God, yet, in their speech they make different applications of that principle of truth. Is one in error, compromising and sinning against God, while the other is standing strong for the truth? In fact, neither is violating the word of God; both are acceptable to Him. Why? Although reverent speech is authorized, there is God-allowed latitude of application. God has not specified only one approved group of pronouns ("Thee" and "Thou") when addressing God in prayer. Therefore, both will be heard by God. Such is a case of different applications (i.e., which pronouns to use in prayer) of one revealed truth (reverent speech before God).

Please note: irreverent speech is neither acceptable nor approved. Romans 14 teaches those who are united over the necessity of reverent speech to "receive one another" in such areas of differing applications of reverence (Rom. 15:7). It is only when brethren begin to bind upon others their opinions concerning application in such cases that disruption and division occurs. Such division is caused by binding the opinions and traditions of men upon the consciences of others - the very thing Romans 14 is intended to prevent. Have we forgotten how to properly use Romans 14 today?

The past several years has seen interest heightened to the point of debate and division over the subject of divorce and remarriage. Brethren are once again challenged to distinguish the difference between binding truth and allowable differences (cf. Phil. 1:9-11). Is it possible to be united in the truth of the gospel on marriage, divorce and remarriage, and yet differ over some specific points of application? Yes, just as surely as it was for the meat-eater and the herb-eater to differ in their application of food consumption while not having fellowship with the idol. Yes it is possible, just as surely as it is for brethren who agree we must have reverence for God to differ on which pronouns to use when applying that principle of reverence.

The revealed pattern of divine truth on marriage, divorce and remarriage is unassailable and must not be compromised: one man and one woman for life with one exception (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-6, 9; Rom. 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:10-11; Heb. 13:4). Any teaching or practice that contradicts this pattern of sound doctrine is error and must be resisted. For example, the "one-loosed, both loosed" doctrine that allows for unrestrained remarriage, the desertion exemption for remarriage (that misunderstands and misapplies 1 Cor. 7:15), the so-called "waiting game" and the teaching that alien sinners are not under the marriage law of the gospel of Christ are among the erroneous doctrines that must be withstood because they violate "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3; 2 Jno. 9-11; Gal. 1:6-9).

Still, it must be acknowledged that brethren who are united on the aforementioned principle of truth (one man and one woman for life with one exception) conscientiously differ on some of the applications of that God-given pattern. Differences in application that do not violate the God-given pattern for marriage, divorce and remarriage should not be made tests of fellowship. That is the "forgotten side" of Romans 14. Will we have the abundant "love", "knowledge and all discernment" necessary to "approve the things that are excellent" and to remain "sincere and without offense till the day of Christ" as we address this subject (Phil. 1:9-10)? Or, will we disrupt unity with the stumbling block of binding personal conscience upon others? Romans 14 still has application today.

We must be able to distinguish between necessary things and allowable differences or we will forever be laying a stumbling block that Romans 14 commands us to avoid (see Rom. 14:1, 10-13). The factiousness of binding where the Lord has not bound is just as devastating to the body of Christ as is loosing where the Lord has not loosed. There is no virtue in being "ultra-conservative" when that means trampling on God-allowed liberties.

Brother Keith Greer recently reminded us of some applications of the Bible's teaching on MDR over which brethren disagree even while they maintain agreement on the divine pattern of one man and one woman for life, with one exception (Matt. 19:4-6, 9). The differences in application he noted were:

· Does the cause (adultery) have to be written on the papers?
  · Can an adulterous mate execute a civil divorce against a faithful mate, and the faithful mate be prohibited from remarrying because he/she is the "put-away" mate?
  · What if both parties commit adultery?
  · Can the first mate (the faithful one) take back and remarry the "guilty party" after the divorce?
  · Does death sever the put-away fornicator's marriage bond?
  · Can a Christian put away his mate for the "kingdom's sake" and remain unmarried or be reconciled?
  ("Are We Doomed to Divide?", Keith Greer, Knollwood Messenger, July 2004)

When conscience compels a brother or sister to hold fast to one application over another, and truth is not violated by doing so, we are to respect their conscience and not press our different (though equally sound) application to the point of division. That is the "side" of Romans 14 we must not forget. We must remember to receive one another when there is dispute over "doubtful things" instead of pressing personal scruples to the point of forcing the violation of conscience and rupturing unity in the body of Christ.

Will there be differences among us over what may properly be considered "doubtful things" that allow for such differences in application? Yes, there will. When such differences arise we must rise to the challenge and show "all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love" as we diligently study God's word together to understand the way of God more accurately, always "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:2-3; 2 Tim. 2:14-16; Acts 17:11-12).

Unless and until we are willing and able to distinguish between the revealed truth of the gospel and personal scruples we will be plagued with the liberalism of unity in doctrinal diversity on the one hand, and the factionalism of binding human traditions on the other. Both are instruments of the devil to divide and devour the body of Christ. We must not be ignorant of his devices (2 Cor. 2:11).

Let us be careful how we hear God's word (and each other); not with prejudiced ears and hardened hearts, but with fair minds that search out God's word while thinking the best of one other (Lk. 8:18; Acts 17:10-11; Rom. 15:6; 1 Cor. 13:4-7). "But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!" (Gal. 5:15) May the Lord grant His children the wisdom and humility we need to accomplish His will in all things (Col. 1:9-12).


You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS

Water Baptism: Objections (Part 5)

Scripture Reading:  Titus 3:1-7

-Truth:  Baptism is the Means by which God’s Mercy Saves Man, Tit. 3:4-7 (Eph. 2:8-9; Ac 22:16)

-Truth:  Point of Emphasis was Preaching the Gos­pel, Not who Does the Baptizing, Matt. 28:19. (cf. Jno. 12:44; 1 Pet. 3:3-4)


  A.  Translations Reject this Meaning.
  B.  Context Rejects this Meaning.
  C.  Definition of eis Rejects this Meaning.


  A.  The Man in the Desert (North Pole, etc.), Acts 8:26, 36; 2 Cor. 6:2.

- Believers turn skeptic to discredit bap­tism!


You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS

Binding Where Lord Has Not Bound

Scripture Reading:  Acts 15:22-29


  A.  Going Beyond what is Written, 2 Jno. 9; Gal. 1:8-9; 1 Cor. 4:6; 1 Jno. 1:1-4.
  B.  Demanding Conformity to the Traditions of Men, Acts 15:1, 5, 24; Gal. 2:4-5; Mk. 7:1-13.


  A.  There are Necessary Things – Acts 15:28-29.
  B.  There are Liberties (not bound), Rom. 14:1-2.
  C.  The Inability or Unwillingness to Discern the Difference Causes Division in the Body of Christ, Gal. 5:13-15, 2 Tim. 2:14-18.
  D.  Respect for & the Proper Application of Bible Authority will keep us on the Solid Ground of Truth – Col. 3:17; 1 Tim. 1:3-7.



Created by Chuck Sibbing - 01/27/2005

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