Unity in the Church (Romans 14:13-23)

Here’s my sermon outline for “Unity in the Church” Part 2 based on Romans 14:13-23, preached at Cross of Christ Fellowship in Naperville.

                                                        Romans 14:13-23 “Unity in the Church” Part 2
Intro
: Imagine a concert band of 100 people attempting to play ‘Star Spangled Banner’ together.
        -What if: everyone had different piece of music; no one followed conducted; everyone started own time? How would it sound?
        -How different if unity is sought: Same piece of music, same arrangement, in tune, following conductor!
                    -What is the result? A working unity leads to beautiful music.
                                -God’s design for His church is UNITY in gospel. It is a good and beautiful design. But it takes work
                                            TODAY: If we are going to have unity our church, we must take action to make it happen.
RECAP & CONTEXT: Theme of Romans is the GOSPEL!
Rom 1-11 Gospel Explained. Romans 12-15 Gospel Lived out.
Rom 14-15:13: Unity in the church. 4-week series here in Romans.
        -Last week: If we are going to have unity in our church, we must first put away judgmental attitudes toward other Christians.
        -This week: If we are going to have unity our church, we must take action to make it happen.
                                            2 Actions: I. Refrain; II. Pursue

I. REFRAIN: Unity in the Church Requires us to Refrain (13-18)
Concert band illustration: if we are to have to unity we refrain from playing what we want and ignoring the conductor!
         -Gospel-centered unity in the church requires some of us to refrain from some things at some times.
Summary Statement of Previous section (13a): Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer
       
-We looked at that in depth last week. Primary and Secondary Issues.
                    -We must put away judgmental, condemning attitudes toward Christians who differ from us on secondary issues.
-Unity Requires us to Refrain (13b): but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
        -We must decide to Refrain: “NEVER to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother
                    -Stumbling block or hindrance are things which might cause other Christians to sin.
                                -It leads away from flourishing in their faith, to stumbling or tripping.
        -The context indicates this is referring to issues of Christians who are “weak in faith” vs. “strong in faith”
                    -Strong=gospel allows freedom to eat foods which were once ritually unclean in the OT
                    -Weak=struggled to see how freedom could allow them to partake of certain foods/activities
                                 -Original context: Strong were not to tempt weak into activities their conscience did not allow
TODAY: Our conscience as Christians differ on secondary issues. Some of us do not understand yet the full freedom we have in Christ
        –We must not tempt believers, weak in their faith, with activities their conscience does not allow.
                   
-Examples:
Drink alcohol; Participating in Halloween.

                                              4 Motivating truths to Clarify, Motivate, and Help us Refrain


1. We Refrain at times, not because Food is not unclean in itself, but might be unclean to our brother (READ 14)
-Important Clarification:
I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself,
       
-Jesus Christ has fulfilled the OT dietary laws, and now all food is clean (Mark 7:19)
-But, due to one’s conscience, food might be unclean to some: but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.  
        -The Jewish Christian—still coming to understand freedom in Christ—still may view those foods unclean
                    -Activities TODAY some Christians might view unacceptable: Dancing; Secular books; Public School;
                                -They are not sinful in & of themselves, but might be to Christian still working out implication of gospel
                                            –STORY of me as New Christian Coming to Understand I can ENJOY Music still.
        -Sometimes we refrain from a thing because it may be unclean to our brother!

2. We Refrain at times, because we want to walk in love (15-16)
-To refuse to be sensitive in this area is lack of love: 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love.
       
-If we intentionally tempt a brother to not follow his/her conscience, or flaunt our freedom, we are not walking in love.
                     –SEE THIS BEAUTIFUL VISION OF CHURCH: A group of believers all walking in love!
                                –ENCOURAGEMENT: I think we do we see much of this in CCF. Let’s strive for more!
-The gospel motivates us:  By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.
        -BEHOLD the Wonder of the GOSPEL: Christ died for sinners! Christ died for you! For me! (No greater love!)
                     -Jesus died for your brother who differs from you and may have immature views or practices
         -“to destroy” here means to harm them in their faith and walk with God—lead into sin
-We also must not let our freedom be spoken of as evil:  16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.         
        -What your regard as good=freedom we have in Christ to eat what we like.
                    -If we use it in a way that tears down our brother in Christ, it will be spoken of as evil.
                                -We Refrain at times because we love our brother or sister.

3. We Refrain at times because of the Kingdom of God (READ 17)
-The kingdom of God: Prophesied in OT (Dan 2:44-45) and arrived in Jesus (Matt 4:17)
        -It is God’s people under God’s rule (Christians are part of it!)
        -It is a present reality in part, and one in full in the future.
-Kingdom of God not…a matter of eating and drinking
        -There are FAR more important things than eating and drinking!
                    -FAR more important things than secondary issues we argue! (gifts of Spirit, age of Earth, Bible trans, evangelism methods)
-Kingdom of God is a matter of…righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit
        –Righteousness=right standing with God and lived out holiness
        –Peace=peace with God and each other  
        –Joy in the Holy Spirit=gladness in our heart. Far better than everything of this world.
                    Application: We refrain because the kingdom of God reorients our priorities.

4. We Refrain at times because this is actually the better way (18)
-To refrain is better because this path is one of “serving Christ”
-To refrain is better because it is “acceptable to God”
-To refrain is better because it is “approved by men”
        Application: We choose to refrain from some things sometimes, because this is actually the better way.
SUMMARY: Unity requires to take the action of REFRAINING…

II. PURSUE: Unity in the Church Requires us to PURSUE (19-23)
Band Illustration: Beautiful music together requires us to PURSUE certain things: intonation, follow conductor, same piece of music
        -Unity in the church requires us to PURSUE particular things.-We Pursue what brings peace & mutual upbuilding (19) 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding
       
Pursue=We are actively seeking this out. We are not passive, but taking the action of pursuing
        –Pursue what makes for peace= instead of division, we pursue what brings peace between other believers. (‘Peace-makers’: Matt 5:9)
        –Pursue what makes for mutual upbuilding=that which is edifying, encouraging   
                    HOW TO DO THIS? Talk about God is teaching you in the Scripture. Talk about the sermon. Choose not be divisive.  
 -Command that flows of this (20a) 20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.
        -“do not destroy the work of God”
= this likely refers to our brother or sister. But could be unity of local church. 
        –“for the sake of food”= Puts in perspective how trivial our secondary issues are compared to persons God has made                     
-Clarification: all food is clean, but don’t cause your brother to sin by what you eat (READ 20b)
    -This is a reiteration of earlier statement: all food is clean!
            -Yet, we should not make another believer stumble by going against their conscience.
 -Out of love, we choose to abstain (21)
21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.
         
-We can choose to refrain from eating certain foods, drinks, or activities out of love.           
-Out of love, we choose not to impose our conscience on another (22)
22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.
       
-“The faith that you have” refers not to our faith in Jesus for salvation, but faith as it relates to secondary issue.
        -“keep between yourself and God”= Your conviction about secondary issue.
                    -We actively choose not to impose our convictions on secondary issues on other Christians.
                                –Example: Christian boycotting particular store Target. Not judging those who do not.       
-Beatitude Related to this and Explained (22b-23)
        -Beatitude:  Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves.
                   
=The person who fully understands the freedom we have in Christ and has no reason to pass judgment on self
                                -It is a blessed state to realize how Christ brought about a marvelous freedom!
        -Converse: But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith.
                   
-If we have doubts about the freedom we have in Christ and proceed anyway, we choose sin.
                                -This is because “eating is not from faith”
                                            -And “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
                                                        -This applies to secondary issue and all of life!

SUMMARY & CONCLUSION:
-Unity in the church is a good thing that requires us to take action. We must choose at times to refrain from certain things, out of love for our weaker brother or sister in Christ. We must also choose to pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding.
-Many Christians through the ages have used this quote to summarize the approach we are to take in the church:
“In essentials unity, in non-essentials freedom, in all things love.”
       
-This is a very helpful way to put it. And what we see Paul teaching us here in Romans 14-15.                   
May God grant us the grace to do this here in Cross of Christ Fellowship.

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