So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God. Romans 14:12

This is the concluding statement in an unusual New Testament paragraph. Jewish Christians and gentile Christians had a huge first-century disagreement. The dispute involved different cultures, different ways of doing religious things, different ways of honoring deity, and different religious preferences. Too see the clash, read Acts 15:1-21.

The evident clash is in the paragraph above the statement. Some Christians ate anything. Some Christians, for spiritual reasons, were conscientious vegetarians. Some felt no day had spiritual significance, and some observed special holy days. Practices at the opposite ends of the spiritual spectrum occurred in Rome’s congregations.

If you think this is foolish, be assured it was not foolish then! Consider the matter from the Jewish perspective. In Leviticus 11:1-47, the Jewish people from their origin as a nation (rather than an expanded family) understood there were things they could and could not eat. The Lord gave the instruction, and this was national practice for centuries. It was so ingrained in Jewish thinking that the apostle Peter was confused by his vision of the net (Acts 10:10-17, 29). The concept of animal sacrifice: the sacrifice’s giver ate part of the sacrifice to show oneness with the God honored (1 Samuel 1:1-5). If a Christian ate from a sacrifice given to an idolatrous god, what would be the meaning?

Paul said: (1) do not judge each other’s motive; (2) they both—even with opposite practices—were the Lord’s servants, and the Lord would make both stand; (3) these Christians did opposite things for the same motive; and (4) judging and contempt have no place among Christians.

Paul said, “In your decision of what you should do, you will answer for yourself when God questions you.” It will not be a matter of “Do you know what they said?” or “That person hurt my feelings!” or “That was the most unreasonable act I ever saw or heard.” It will not be a “Them—it is their fault!” issue. Before the God who knows exactly what we all thought, it will be a “What was in your heart?” issue. You will not be saved because you went to West-Ark, but because you served Jesus Christ. The Lord saves—people don’t. Aren’t you glad your salvation is not dependent on human judgment?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 19 July 2009

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