SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #13
December 30, 2017
In Romans, Paul has done a thorough job of explaining and outlining the everlasting gospel focusing on God’s agape love and His infinite sacrifice as manifested by Christ’s birth, death, life, and resurrection and the meaning it has for each and every one of us. Now in the closing chapters of Romans, Paul wants to bring it home and show us how it can become real in our lives.
The title of our lesson, “Christian Living”, could just as well be summarized by the phrase “Living for Others”. But with our selfish human natures, how is that even remotely possible? Our human love might extend to caring for and making sacrifices for close friends and family but, even so, it looks for them to love us back in return and is self-centered—looking for a response and what’s in our best interests. God’s agape love is the exact opposite---His love is totally unselfish, it is infinite and is given to the entire universe, including the whole human race. Whether we respond or not, His love is a wonderful gift. Really, God is giving us Himself—it’s who He is!—“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16.
At the incarnation, Christ, as the second or last Adam, put the entire human race into Himself, and through His birth, life, death and resurrection paid the price for humanity’s sin. In His own words (John 15:4), Christ promises to us: “Remain (abide) in Me, and I will remain (abide) in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself: it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.”
It is still our choice as to whether we remain in Christ, but if we do, His power and His love will remain in us through the Holy Spirit in our heart and in our lives. It is His love, His power, and His strength that allows us as Christians to live for others and not ourselves.
Now, with these thoughts in mind, we look at Romans 14 and see that we are not to judge or condemn one another (vs 10: But why does thou judge thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ).
As Waggoner states, (Waggoner on Romans pp. 196-197): “We have learned that the members of the church of Christ are not judges one of another, but fellow servants of one common Lord. We are not taught that is a matter of indifference whether or not we keep the commandments of God—quite the contrary, since we are all to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and be judged by them—but we are taught that in those things concerning which the law of God does not speak particularly, one man’s ways are as good as another’s. We learned even further that even one who may be faulty with respect to an express commandment, is not to be dealt with harshly, and condemned. Such a course cannot help one, and, besides, we have no right to do so, since we are but servants.”
Continuing on, as we look at Romans 14: 14-23, there are many that take these verses as a license to eat or drink what we wish whether it be clean or unclean. However, we need to look at these verses in context. In Paul’s day, the issue creating conflict was food that had been dedicated to pagan idols and was subsequently sold by their priests in the markets to raise funds at very good prices.
Let’s look at Waggoner’s comments on this topic (Waggoner on Romans pp. 197-198):
“If we consider well the subject under consideration, we shall not wrest this scripture from its connection. The thing presented from the beginning of the chapter is the case of a man with so little real knowledge of Christ that he thinks righteousness is to be obtained by the eating of certain kinds of food, or by not eating certain things. The idea clearly conveyed by the entire chapter is that it is by faith, and not by eating and drinking, that we are saved.
A little consideration of the question of clean and unclean food will help us much. There is a strange idea prevalent, to the effect that things that were at one time unfit for food are perfectly wholesome now. Many people seem to think that even unclean beasts are made clean by the gospel. They forget that Christ purifies men, not beast and reptiles. Enlightenment brings carefulness in the selection of food.”
Jack Sequeira’s book, “Romans, The Clearest Gospel of All ”(RCG) is also a very thorough study of Romans and provides some additional insights for our benefit (RCG pp.213-216), Referring to Romans 14:14 he says:
“We should not equate this statement about uncleanliness with the health laws of Leviticus 11. Paul is not discussing the health issue. He is discussing food offered to idols. Is it right or wrong for a Christian to buy market food which was once offered to idols? Clearly Paul is not discussing rules of healthful living which are still viable to Christians. When God gives health laws in Leviticus, (or in the Spirit of Prophecy) He is not giving these rules as requirements for salvation. He is giving them for the good of His people.
God is not only our Savior, He is our Creator (and Re-Creator). As our Creator, He knows what is best for our health. He wants our bodies, our souls, and our spirits to be kept blameless (1 Corinthians 1:8) until the coming of the Lord. God gave health rules and many other rules. We take these rules and apply them to ourselves, as Christians, not because we want to be saved but because we want to have bodies that are healthy so that God can use us more fully for His glory.
Christians must never take the guidelines God gives us in the Old Testament regarding lifestyle, eating, or dressing, as requirements for salvation. Men and women are saved only one way—by grace. True justification by faith creates a relationship to God and fellowmen that differs radically from the pre-conversion way of life. Before conversion, human beings live as they please. They do as they please, it’s no one else’s business. But now they live for God, uplifting Him before all, doing nothing to cause either believer or unbeliever to reject Christ.
Genuine Christians live unto God and for the sake of others. These become controlling factors in whatever they do. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31 that whatever Christians do, eat, or drink, let it be to the glory of God. God wants Christians to live for others.
In Romans 14:18-23 we read: “For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.” What a wonderful statement! Christians should live lives that please God and bring honor to the cause of God. Verse 19 says, “Let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another”.
True Christianity brings peace between human beings—not only between man and God. Justification by faith gives peace with God but also produces a lifestyle conducive to peace between man and man.
Christian living involves a cross—self-denial (Luke 9:23). In exchange, Christ lives within. The life Christ lived 2000 years ago He can live in the Christian today, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
The world needs to see, not how good Christians are, but how the goodness of God can be manifested in them. In other words, Paul says “You are God’s children. Please behave as God’s children. Let the world see. Let the Christian church be an example of the unity of the Trinity. Let us be of one heart—one mind—so that the world recognizes that the gospel is the power of God to redeem us from selfishness as well as condemnation.”
God wants nothing but the best for us, His children. He wants us to be healthy and strong in mind, body, and spirit. God’s biblical health laws were intended for our good as are the health laws brought forth in the Spirit of Prophecy for His last day church. In Jeremiah 29:11, He says: “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”
God truly loves us, but He does not force and allows us to choose. Similarly, as we discussed at the beginning, if we are truly abiding or remaining in Christ, then we will be living for others and neither will we be judging, forcing, or criticizing our Christian brothers and sisters (or anyone else). Rather, we will be seeking to build them up, help where we can, and look to share with them all the blessings that God has in store for them and us. May you be blessed as you study this week’s Sabbath school lesson.
~John and Monica Campbell