This morning we will conclude chapter 14 of the book of Romans with a message that is closely related to the one we heard last week. That sermon was titled "Acceptance and Respect". In it we learned that fellow Christians should accept one another's differences while holding on to their own convictions, and that the should respect each other's opinions on less consequential issues while together pursuing higher things. By accepting and respecting one another, believers are better able to work harmoniously and effectively as the body of Christ.
Today we are going to look at the remaining verses in this chapter. Remember that we have not be reading these verses in the exact order in which Paul wrote them. We've not changed their meaning, but rather rearranged them for the sake of clarification. That said, the verses that are left deal with the topic of passing judgment on one another. When we fail to accept and respect our brethren, invariably it will lead to judgmental attitudes and behaviors.
Jesus himself sternly warned us not to judge one another. Such behavior is not characteristic of the one who follows Christ. In this sermon we will consider several reasons why passing judgment on others is inappropriate in the sight of God.
I. YOU ARE NOT HIS MASTER (Romans 14:1,4)
Paul opens chapter 14 by urging Christians to accept the one who is weaker in the faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. The instructions given in this chapter are intended to help the faithful relate to one another. Therefore, we should understand this verse to mean that, as it pertains to lesser things such as eating or drinking (which we discussed last week), we should not condemn another Christian for doing what they sincerely believe to be right in accordance with their convictions. If their actions are not morally sinful or in violation of God's commands, we should withhold judgment.
The question is raised in verse 4, "Who are you to judge the servant of another?" This is a great question to ask and answer for ourselves. Only the master possesses the proper authority to judge or evaluate the performance of his servant. Because we are not spiritual masters of one another, we are not in a rightful position to cast judgment. Each servant will either stand or fall before his own master, not before another who is not his master. Notice that this verse goes on to say that all of those who have be saved will stand - for the Lord will make them stand. Therefore, even those fellow believers with whom you disagree on certain issues will be judged as righteous based upon their saving faith in Jesus Christ. Do we really want to condemn those with whom we will spend eternity?
It is important to understand that these verses do not specifically apply to the relationship between the redeemed children of God and the lost world. While we are to love all people in the name of Jesus, we cannot accept or respect the sinful teachings and practices of the wicked. We must stand up against the evil ways of our culture. This will require us at times to pass judgment on particular behaviors, but not upon people themselves. We cannot blindly compromise the truths of God's Word for fear of be called judgmental. However, even in these instances, our actions should always be redemptive in nature and seasoned with compassion and love for one another.
II. YOU DON'T KNOW HIS MOTIVES (Romans 14:7-9)
In these verses Paul is referring to himself and others like him who are fully motivated by the Lord. He says that such a person does not live for himself. Rather, everything they do is for God. Where they go, how they work, where they spend their money, who they associate with, everything - their entire life is dedicated to and lived for the Lord. If their committed service leads them to be martyred for the cause of Christ, then they will gladly die for the Lord as well. Whether they live or die, not matter what it is they do, it is all for the Lord. He is their driving motivation.
Sometimes we cast judgment upon one another's actions without knowing the true motivation behind them. In the example Paul gives, the Jewish Christians were not eating certain things because they desired to be obedient to God. The issue was not so much about what they were doing, but rather why they were doing it. During the final week of Jesus' earthly ministry, Mary Magdalene took some costly perfume and poured it on Jesus' feet (John 12:1-8). Judas condemned her for doing so, stating that she could have sold the perfume and used the proceeds to help the poor. Though he truly didn't care for the poor, there is no doubt that doing what he suggested would have be a noble pursuit. Still, Jesus defended Mary's decision because He saw that her heart was in the right place. Mary anointed Jesus with perfume because she deeply loved Him. From a practical standpoint some might think her actions were wasteful, but from a spiritual standpoint her motivations were pure and acceptable.
We should not judge a fellow Christian's opinions or practices regarding lesser issues because we don't always know their true motivation. Many of the decisions we make are not necessarily between right and wrong, but rather they are about style or personal preferences. If someone has arrived at a certain position because of a heartfelt conviction to serve God, who are we to judge them? Would we like it if our fellow believers constantly questioned the sincerity of our devotion to the Lord? Probably not...
III. YOU'LL BE JUDGED IN LIKE MEASURE (Romans 14:10-12)
Scripture teaches that one day all of us will stand before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ. At this time each person individually will have to answer for all of their deeds while here on the earth. The Lord will listen to our defense and render His judgment accordingly. How strictly will He judge us? Will He do so harshly or with mercy? Is there anything we can do to affect His temperament during this coming judgment? Can we request leniency somehow?
During the Sermon on the Mount, the Jesus stated that we will be judged in the same manner or to the same degree that we judge each other (Matt. 7:1-2). If we have demonstrated an overly-critical attitude toward our brethren, He will utilize this same heightened level of scrutiny when judging us. If, on the other hand, we have been generally accepting and respectful of others, the Lord will be more tolerant toward us. The measure by which we judge others will have direct bearing on how we ourselves are judged.
Every time we cast judgment upon another person we unwittingly increase the intensity of our own judgment. We should always be mindful of this fact... by condemning others we are, in fact, condemning ourselves. Again, it is important to remember that we are not talking about be silent or permissive toward sin. This passage pertains specifically to judging the opinions or practices of others on non-essential items. If we desire to receive mercy, we must be careful to give it.
IV. YOU MIGHT CAUSE HIM TO MISSTEP (Romans 14:13)
When we judge another person, we place a stumbling block in their pathway. A stumbling block is something which causes a person to err or to stray from the truth. Casting a stumbling block in one's way is quite the opposite of being our brother's keeper. How are we showing love for one another by hindering their relationship with the LORD?
Jesus frequently rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for placing stumbling blocks in their way of the people. Their behaviors discouraged others from believing in or following Christ. They worked ferociously to misrepresent Him to the masses and to obscure the message that He that He taught. All too often, the judgmental attitudes of Christians today have this same effect. When we callously chastise our brethren, they are frequently left with a soured opinion about us, the church, and even God himself. They are more prone to misstep or stumble in their Christian walk due to the judgmental behavior we've leveled upon them.
Jesus said, "Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!" (Matt. 18:1) The word "woe" as used in this quotation is somewhat synonymous with "cursed". To restate Jesus' declaration in another way, "Cursed is the man who brings about or causes a stumbling block in the life of another." Those who lead others to sin, who encourage them to do so, or who prevent them from following God's direction for their lives by placing stumbling blocks in their way are acting in violation God's will.
The Bible does not teach that judgments should never be made. Hundreds of times every day we have to make judgments of various types. Scripture gives us guidelines and direction as to how to make these choices. A person who exercises godly wisdom is adapt at making decisions and determinations that will honor and glorify God. There is a profound distinction between godly discernment and judgment.
When we practice sound judgment, we are able to chose between that which is right or wrong - we are able to think biblically. It has to do with the decisions we make. We are not judging others when we determine and even declare that their behaviors are unbiblical. Judgment comes if we proclaim them to be of less value and unworthy of God's mercy and forgiveness. Judgment is a condemnation of the person rather than their practices. Who are we to judge one another?