This is a multi-week series about gray areas and disagreements in the Christian life. In Part One we discussed the fact that there are gray areas in the Christian life, and at times Christians have different views and both can be right. In Part Two, we discussed how Christians should be making decisions about gray areas. This week we will be discussing weak Christians and why it is even important to know who may be a weak Christian.
Christians are humans and frequently have disagreements. Even the apostle Paul in Acts 15 disagreed with his ministry partner, Barnabas. In Philippians Chapter 4, two women (who were Paul’s ministry partners at one time) were in a disagreement. Christians disagreeing on things is not anything new.
Not only have Christians disagreed on things, they have had strong disagreements. In Acts 15:39 we see that Paul and Barnabas had a “sharp disagreement.” We see that the disagreement was so sharp, that the two of them parted ways in their mission together. “And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.”
Paul and Barnabas were not talking about black and white issues. This was a disagreement of how the ministry should run. If it would have been a sin issue, one of them would have confronted the other about it. So through some of these things, we see there are times when Christians disagree on things which God doesn’t give a black and white answer to in Scripture.
In Romans 14, the idea of “weak” Christians comes up. Let’s see how the passage refers to them. In verse 1, Paul talks about the one who is “weak” in faith. He then says in verse 2 that the person who is “weak” in faith is the person abstaining in this case. Paul does not use the word “weak” in the rest of the passage, but it is inferred as Paul renders out the rest of the work on the subject.
Let’s go back to the idea of the weak person being the one who abstains here. We see that Paul is not saying that the person who is eating is the person who is weak in faith, but the person who is not eating. Why is that? Because the person who is eating has a strong faith, knowing that the food itself is not sinful.
In Part One we talked about the ideas that the disagreement comes from. Some were not eating the meat because they believed that they were still under the Old Testament Law, or from the idea that the meat was being sacrificed at the market to pagan gods. The people strong in their faith were able to understand that they were no longer under Old Testament law (if that was the disagreement) or that they were not taking part in pagan worship by eating the meat (if that was the disagreement).
Paul is saying here that the person who is weak in faith is the one abstaining. He is actually labeling that person. One reason they may be weak in faith is because they don’t understand that Christians are no longer under the Old Testament law. They have not studied well enough to understand that.
The second reason they may be weak in faith is because they think that if they are participating in eating meat offered to idols, they are taking part in pagan worship. Since pagan gods are not real, the person who understands this can eat the meat, because they are not taking part in true pagan worship because there is no such thing as true pagan worship. The big picture here is that the one weak in faith is the one abstaining.
Again, I want to make sure that we are only talking about gray areas, not commandments of Scripture. We are not saying, “Well, that man is weak in faith because he abstains from adultery.” That would be absurd, because we know what God has to say about that. Most of the Christian life is very straight forward.
Why is identifying the weak person important? Too many times when I see Christians discuss gray areas, I see people who are strong in their faith, claiming to be the weaker Christian. What I mean by that is the one running around abstaining from everything is often the Christian who has been a Christian for decades. Mature Christians should not be weak in their faith.
If you have been a Christian for decades, you should be strong in your faith. Gray areas that you abstained from, or you participated in, or saw other Christians participate in, should not take over your life and destroy your faith. If they do, your faith is weak.
Why does this matter? Because often Christians who are commanding everyone else to abstain from something have been following Jesus for decades. People who have a clear conscience and are convinced that they can participate in a gray area (verse 5) are often met with resistance, not by newer Christians, but those who have had faith for decades, who hold the market on gray areas.
If you are a seasoned Christian, other Christians participating in gray areas should not destroy your faith. If you are a strong and seasoned Christian, you should not be demanding control of gray areas for the sole purpose of believing this will destroy your faith. You can’t claim to be strong in faith, and easily tripped up by gray areas. Strong Christians are not easily lead astray by simple things.
What are gray areas that you are in conversation with other Christians about? Are you the Christian who is strong or weak in faith? Who are the strong and weak in faith Christians you are dealing with? Who is the one demanding that everyone follow their way?
We still have some discussion to go in the area of how to deal with gray areas as Christians. I hope you will continue to study Romans 14 as we look at this topic. What is further discussion that you see in the chapter? Are there times to abstain, even when you don’t believe you should abstain? How can abstaining or participating in these gray areas bring glory to God?
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.