Book of Romans, Sermon Starters—Week 16
Scripture Notes for Romans 14:1-12
- Be hospitable toward those who are weak in faith; do not quarrel over opinions.
- Some observe special dietary laws; others do not. Neither side should pass judgment on the other.
- Judgment is God's prerogative; we should not presume to stand as judges of others.
- Some observe special days; others do not. In matters not essential to salvation, faith, reason, and conscience determine what actions are sanctified.
- We do not live or die in isolation. We live and die to the Lord. Christ is Lord of the dead and the living.
- Do not concern yourself with judging others. Instead, be concerned about standing before the Lord in the final judgment.
In this week's passage, Paul addressed a situation particularly relevant to the Roman Jewish and Gentile Christians — observing Jewish dietary laws and special religious days. These were matters that were the subject of honest questions in the context of the newly evolving belief system called Christianity.
The dietary laws and special days in question were rooted in religious and ethnic culture. Discussions about religious practices rooted in culture are still relevant for today's audience. "Church cultures" often determine what and how certain rituals and practices should be conducted.
Can we, as Paul urged, learn to be hospitable toward one another despite having differences of opinions about religious practices? Paul's exhortation is especially relevant when tension exists over spiritual differences that are culturally based. The overall message implores hospitality by those who may occupy a "majority position" toward those in the minority. Patience and tolerance are key considerations.
Key Preaching /Teaching Points:
Refrain from passing judgment on others — That is Paul's primary instruction in this passage. The rationale for this teaching is simple: God graciously accepted people on both sides of the issues. Paul uses the common master/slave relationship to illustrate his point. A slave had no right to pass judgment on another slave. Only the master of a slave had the right to judge. Similarly, the Lord Jesus Christ alone has the right to judge others. Follow God's example and refrain from passing judgment on others. Do not quarrel with others about matters that are not essential to salvation.
The two points of contention were Jewish dietary laws and the observance of special holy days. Concerns over diet come into question today when Christians encounter people whose religious beliefs or personal preferences depart from "normal" eating habits. How should a Christian respond? What is included in the church potluck if food is part of the ministry of hospitality? What if someone is a vegetarian or does not eat red meat? Will he or she feel welcomed at fellowship events by the food and conversation offered?
Please see the following articles:
1. If Paul were alive today, what issue might he consider to be the subject of genuine questioning by the Christian community?
2. What does it take for Christian tolerance to occur in a pluralistic society full of cultural differences?
3. What must members of a presumed "majority" be willing to do to offer hospitality toward those with differing spiritual practices?
4. Christian tolerance mean relinquishing one's Christian conviction about an issue?
Evangelistic Preaching Tips
Focus on the significance of NOT quarreling over issues that are not essential to salvation.
Reading: Romans 14:1-12 [An Evangelistic Approach — To lead people to Christ]
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. Patience and hospitality may be the "good news" people need to hear in the context of heightened security, violent crime, war, and terrorism. What small thing can we learn to live with? What differences can we tolerate? Humankind seems to get stuck on judging others on the smallest of matters. This judging comes at the neglect of building relationships. Only God is capable of dispensing grace and judgment fairly. Paul urged his first-century audience to focus on hospitality because Jesus Christ welcomed all people to experience salvation despite their differences. Once "in the family," Paul urges Christians to be gracious. To put Paul's message into contemporary jargon, "Don't sweat the small stuff."
Aim: Encourage pre-Christians to embrace Christianity and become people who learn to build relationships rather than quarrel over differences.
Reading: Romans 14:1-12 [A Renewal Approach — To strengthen the faith of Christians]
What's True for Me is True for Everyone — Isn't It? There is a joke frequently used in evangelism training that describes a man's conversion experience as follows: A non-Christian man fell into a deep hole in the woods. The man tried to crawl out on his own for days but failed. Finally, he began to pray earnestly for God to save him. Soon a hiker came by and rescued the man. Filled with gratitude, the rescued man became a devout Christian and a zealous evangelist, although his methods were suspect. He would take people out to that same deep hole in the woods, push them in, and tell them that if they prayed sincerely, God would save them.
Paul addresses people's notions of private versus universal truth associated with dietary laws and observance of special days. This is a classic example of the differences in perspective that people observe.
Paul urges tolerance and respect for one another, despite different perspectives.
What polarizing issues would Paul address in your congregation?
Aim: Encourage Christians to exercise patience, tolerance, and respect for those with different opinions about issues that are not essential to salvation.
Reading: Romans 14:1-12 [A Reclamation Approach — To restore "de-churched" individuals to vital faith in Jesus Christ]
Welcome Back. Occasionally, it pays to issue a personal welcome back. Magazine companies do it. Coffee clubs do it. How about churches? Personal differences can build towering walls that separate members of the body of Christ. A sincere welcome can do much to mend severed relationships. Focus on the power of reconciliation that is possible when Christians decide NOT to quarrel over small things.
Aim: Invite de-churched people to return to active participation in the body of Christ.
Provide Opportunities for a Faith Response Plan a special event designed to express fellowship and hospitality. Invite inactive members. You might consider one of these events:
- Ice Cream Socials
- Song Fests
- Block Parties
Strive to rebuild broken relationships.
Provide Opportunities for Follow Up
Cultivate renewed relationships with inactive members.
Resources for Romans
- The New Interpreter's Bible A Commentary in Twelve Volumes: Volume X — Acts, Introduction to Epistolary Literature, Romans, 1 Corinthians. Abingdon Press.
- The Message of Romans: God's Good News for the World (The Bible Speaks Today) by John R. W. Stott
- Romans: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries by F. F. Bruce
- Romans: A Shorter Commentary [ABRIDGED] by C. E. B. Cranfield
Follow Up Resource Available in pdf
Small Groups & Accountability: The Wesleyan Way of Christian Formation, by Steven W. Manskar, Director of Accountable Discipleship, Discipleship Ministries
General Evangelism Resources
- Ancient Future Evangelism by Robert Webber
Webber explains Pentecost as the traditional time to declare one's Christian vocation.
- The Faith-Sharing Congregation by Roger Swanson and Shirley Clement
- Faith-Sharing: Dynamic Christian Witnessing by Invitation by H. Eddie Fox and George Morris
- The Faith-Sharing initiative Participants' Manual (Spanish Version) — El compromiso de compartir nuestra fe: Manual del Participante (pdf)
- The Faith Sharing New Testament
- That the World May Know Jesus Christ! by Brazilian Methodist Bishop Paulo Lockmann
- Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith by Henry H. Knight III and Douglas Powe Jr.
- Witness: Learning to Share Your Christian Faith