Where Differences are Allowed and Where they are not Allowed
Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 4Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 7However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 1 Corinthians 8:1-9
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honour of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honour of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honour of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or
whether we die, we are the Lord's. Romans 14:1-8
Not everything each Christian holds dear is also held as God’s unchangeable decree by every other Christian. God allows for conscientious differences of conviction among believers. In the context of Romans 14, and also seen in 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, the issue of eating food that had been offered as a sacrifice in an idol temple, was causing problems. While Paul and others knew that it was just meat, and that idols were just that – idols and no god at all – there were Christians who could not conscientiously eat such meat - regarding it as corrupted by idolatry. To eat such food would be to betray their conscience – even to be participating in the idolatry. Paul stated that these convictions or scruples must be respected, and those who didn’t hold the same opinion should not judge these brethren, nor should they do anything that would cause them to go against their conscientious convictions, which the Bible refers to as “stumbling.” In fact, both parties were to equally respect the convictions of the other party.
Some brethren believe it is wrong to work on the Lord’s Day. Some brethren would never walk into another’s home without taking off their shoes. Others frown on wearing a hat while eating, or elbows on the table, or eating meat on Friday. Some believe birthdays are so important, while others don’t. Everything from conscientious objection and pacifism to always putting yourself last in a food queue. While many of us don’t hold to those scruples, and may even think some are trivial and inconsequential, others think they’re important, and we should respect them.
So if you are visiting my home, then please take off your shoes before entering – out of respect for my scruple, and to maintain love and unity between us, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Colossians 3:17.
This kind of godly behaviour contributes to unity in the church, but if our attitudes are not right, there’s going to be disunity and even ill-feeling … even if you’re so thick-skinned and broad-minded you claim nothing upsets you! Ha! ha!
And must I say it? It’s also a good test of whether you love others more than yourself! Even if you don’t believe it has anything to do with conscience, you do believe in submitting to others’ wishes, at times, don’t you?
If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:27-33.
Of course, some who hold to these scruples, may reach a point in life where they no longer hold them. And that’s ok, as well, isn’t it?.
Finally, remember, we are not talking about standard, non-variable doctrines held by the church and which are to be held the same by all Christians because Jesus has commanded them. Matthew 28:20; John 4:23-24; Romans 16:17-20; Galatians 5:19-6:10; Ephesians 4:1-6; 2 Timothy 1:12-14; Hebrews 2:3; 10:24-25; 12:12-15; 13:1-10. We are talking about a doctrine which allows conscientious differences of belief and practice in certain areas of life.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labour in vain. Philippians 2:1-16
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. Philippians 1:24-26
Are you making joyful progress in your faith … growing in grace and knowledge? Philippians 1:25; 1 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Peter 3:18.