Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Non-series Sermons by Year 2021 Sermons . The sin of judging and slandering . Who are you to judge? (Part 7)

. Who are you to judge? (Part 7)





We have been focussing over the last six sermons on the whole issue of judging, legalism, and slandering. So where to now, how do we make sense out of all of this? Can we get to a point where we understand the issues sufficiently so that we can deal with it?


Judging others and legalism are very much based on two simple statements: ‘I judge you, because you are so different from me,” and ‘my laws work fine for me, so why should it not work fine for you?’ We have said it many times before – when we go beyond what is written and we become the standard of Christian living. We become like the Pharisees who set up fences around themselves with their laws, but then they end up breaking their own laws and in so doing Christ calls them hypocrites. Their problem was that they majored on the minors and they minored on the majors. Their concern was to ‘look good’ instead of ‘doing good’ and ‘being good’. Remember how they criticised the Lord for healing a man on the Sabbath. Even though what Jesus did was good, their problem was that when they tried to figure out what He did in the light of their understanding of the laws governing the Sabbath, it did not look good. Christ had to continually remind them that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.


He accused the Pharisees in Matthew 23 that they cleaned the outside of the cup while the inside was dirty, when they should have in the first place taken care of the inside of the cup. Jesus then proceeds to call them whitewashed tombs. Outwardly they appear righteous, but on the inside, they are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. In Mark 7:5-7 (ESV) we read:5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘this people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” So, their legalism led to hypocrisy and in their hypocrisy, they were blind judges, who went beyond what was written for the sake of the commandments and traditions of men. Their spirituality was nothing but false spirituality. They actually deceived themselves.


And so, it is in our day. Christians raise fences up around themselves and make laws that others cannot keep. They look good when they keep their own laws, but cannot even do that faithfully, but in their pride, they judge others and slander others, and this just makes for one big mess in the church as far as relationships are concerned.


Now, let us face it, we are all different and we function different than what some other believers do in other congregations. Even in our own group we are going to have different standards and views. Some of us are going to commit what others would classify as sin. How do we prevent a wrong attitude prevailing in our midst? How can a church hold together when some of its members are so different from one another? So, for today I want to stand still at Romans 14 and just skim the surface.


I believe if we understand the principles shared in Romans 14, we will be able to eradicate the conflict that arises due to our high view of non-biblical principles.


The central message with which Paul starts his discussion in Romans 14 centres around the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols. Some Christians were okay with going to the marketplace and buying some braaivleis (barbeque) and they even gave thanks to God for it. Other Christians were disgusted as they felt that a Christian who buys such meat is associating himself either with the system or the idols of the system that this meat was related to. The second group according to Paul was wrong. He says in verse 14 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.” On the same topic he says in 1 Corinthians 6:12 (ESV) 12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.” What Paul is saying here is this. If the Word of God does not say something extremely specific and very clear on the issue, it is lawful. God has never said it is wrong to eat meat offered to idols, so if some Christians are okay with it, that is okay and the rest of us must live with it.


Now, we need to ask the following. What about those who think eating such meat is wrong, should we force them to eat such meat because we believe we can eat such meat and glorify God, and secondly, are we not a stumbling block to them if we do eat such meat at all? Now eating such meat is only one example, but there are hundreds of things we can disagree on in which both convictions can be done to the glory of God. This can be applied to any issue, TV, movies, smoking, dancing, moderate controlled drinking, music, participating in a beauty pageant, worship styles, service styles, educational choices, women working, antidepressants or not, and so the list goes on. Should the men in our midst not all be able to say, ‘I do not dance, drink or smoke and I do not go out with girls who do?’


So how do we act regarding all these issues? Paul teaches us in Romans 14 at least four principles that we can apply whenever we encounter people who are different from us in their views on issues not addressed in Scripture. In understanding these we should be able to sort out our attitude. Let me also say, that there is not one set of rules for pastors and another set for church members. Now we might say, but does Paul not give a different set of rules to elders in Timothy and Titus? No, he does not do that. He is simply saying that if a normal Christian does not meet the standards of what a Christian should fully be, you do not elect him as an elder. He is not saying that the rules are different; otherwise, we must conclude that a normal Christian can have more than one wife, can linger next to his wine, can have an angry nature, and does not have to rule his household well etc.  So, let’s look at these principles that affect us all.


Principle one: Welcome one another.

Romans 14:1-4 (ESV) “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.”


Paul is not talking about saving faith. He is referring to a fellow believer who is not comfortable with what you are comfortable with, or he is weak in believing that what you are doing is right. So even though he does not believe or have faith in what you are doing, you welcome him but not to argue.  The word ‘faith’ in verse one is linked to ‘believe’ in verse 2, so it has nothing to do with big faith or small faith or a bigger Christian or a smaller Christian, or a more mature versus the less mature. A Christian’s faith in these things is weak when God allows the person freedom in an area, but their own conscience does not allow them that freedom.


There is a message for both groups of believers here. To the one who believes he may eat everything, do not judge your fellow believer as immature, over-traditional, legalistic or lacking in their understanding of grace. The one who does not believe he may eat everything must not judge the other one as being worldly, immature, loose or unconcerned with holiness.


At the end of the day church family, the issue is that God has welcomed him, and God can make Him stand, so guess what? You must welcome him and accept him as a fellow believer. Remember the difference between him and God is much greater than the difference between you and him, so if you cannot welcome him, you are claiming to be better than God. Just remember that you are weak in an area that another one may be strong, and you are strong in an area where another brother may be weak. So, let us give grace to one another in these areas where Scripture is not clear on, because he is not your servant, but he is the servant of the Lord and it is before the Lord that we will stand or fall.


We all have areas in our lives where our consciences restrict us, and that is fine. Do not judge one another on your preferences, traditions, or views on Scripture where Scripture is not absolutely clear, rather embrace one another in Godly love.

Principle 2. Personal conviction is okay.

Romans 14:5 (ESV) 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.”


Paul now has in mind another issue that was a major issue in their time and that is the Sabbath. Now I will do a sermon series on that sometime, but for now it is good to say that setting apart a day of rest testifies to a self-reliant world that our work does not save or define us, Christ does. We can argue around the principles regarding what we call the day of the Lord, but at the end of the day you need to make up your own mind regarding such days.


When Paul says that you must be fully convinced in your own mind, he is clear that you are not the standard for others. So however, the coin falls, be it heads or tails, your opinion versus their opinion, you must be convinced, and they must be convinced and act accordingly. Scripture is clear on some issues, for example the principle of corporate worship. Hebrews 10:25 (ESV) “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”


To be fully convinced in one’s own mind is not just a matter of flippantly stating that this or that is my conviction and claiming the freedom to do what I want to do and who is anybody to judge me? To be fully convinced will require prayer, vigorous debate, study of the Scriptures, seeking of Godly council and becoming convinced in our own minds what is right. Our freedom must not become an opportunity just to do what I like. Paul reminds the Galatian church in Galatians 5:13 (ESV) 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”


At the end of the day whether your conclusion or conviction is right or wrong will depend on if you can fully glorify God in your action and sincerely thank Him for what you are about to do.


And there is something else we must remember. It is fine to try and convince everybody that you can thank God for the freedom you are enjoying and that you can do it to the glory of God, but remember, we read just a few verses further in Romans 14:10-12 (ESV) 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”


Principle 3. Consider your brother in your freedom.

Do you realise that there is a time and a place to restrict your freedom for the sake of your brother? We have seen so far that we have the right to act according to our conscience, but be careful, your brother has the same right and you want to be careful not to cause him to go against his.


Romans 14:13-21 (ESV) 13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. 20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.”


As a Christian, I am commanded to consider my brother. That is why even preaching this stuff is so difficult, because I do not want to be the reason that a brother does what is wrong for him because of my preaching. We need to be aware of the weaknesses of other believers and act in such a manner as not to cause them to go against their convictions or their weaknesses. That is why we can make a rule as a church that no strong drink will be allowed at any church function, because there will always be those in our midst who are struggling in this area and we want to consider them. We need to act in a way that edifies one another instead of encouraging one another to sin. That is why Paul can say in Romans 15:1-2 (ESV) “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, to build him up.”


Now what it does not mean is that we must abstain totally and always because of someone’s weakness. Think about it, there is always somebody who is weak in an area. Will I not eat because some have a weakness in the area of gluttony? Will I decline a salary at Logos because some have a problem with the love of money? Will I not go to the beach, because someone has a weakness with beautiful women or handsome men? We will become spiritual zombies to say the least. But there are times I do refrain. Paul is helpful on this in 1 Corinthians 10:23-29 (ESV) 23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbour. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 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?”


So, consider your brother in your freedom at the right time and the right place and whatever you do in word or in deed, do it to the glory of God. Love your brother and help him get to heaven, instead of judging him and making it harder for him. Seek his good and not your own for it matters to God.


Before we end this point, I need to make a comment on verse 20. Romans 14:20 (ESV) 20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.” Some translations like the NAS says that we must not do anything that causes offense. Well, we might say, are we not surrounded by legalistic, traditional, and opinionated people who are offended by anything we do? Do we now refrain for their sake? This is not what Paul is saying. The Greek word  proskomma {pros'-kom-mah} means to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a way of another over which they will stumble, or be caused to sin. It does not mean that I do away with something that another person just does not like. I do not do what is wrong for them and in my doing I am going to cause them to do what they believed was wrong for them.



By the way, Jesus did not change His behaviour because of the legalistic Pharisees; on the contrary He did things that frustrated them all the time. Paul did not succumb to the pressure of legalistic Christians. Paul had an issue with some Jewish believers who wanted the gentiles to be circumcised. Galatians 2:3-5 (ESV) 3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.” Paul did not yield to them even for a moment, because in doing so, he would give license to them going beyond what is written.


Principle 4. Consider your conscience.

Romans 14:22-23 (ESV) 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”


The ‘faith’ that Paul is referring to here is again that conviction or belief in your heart that what you are doing is okay and right between you and the Lord, because you have seriously considered the Biblical references to it, sought wisdom, and prayed about it. According to Paul we are happy or blessed when we do not feel guilty about something because it is okay between me and God and His word is not against it. The kingdom produces more than Christian liberty. It governs how you use your liberty too.


There are times in your heart that you are convinced that something is right, and you have a clear conscience before the Lord, but you know that there are many who will disagree with you on the subject. Paul has one thing to say to you, ‘keep quiet’ and enjoy your freedom. Even if you are burning to convince others of your way, do not; no matter how right you are. Do not go there; it is fine for you and God to agree on the matter.  But my friend if you doubt, do not do it, because if it does not proceed from a strong conviction, faith or belief that it is right you are sinning by doing it.


But what is critical, is that we will test our conscience if it has purely been blackmailed into thinking that goes beyond what is written and at the end of the day, we are guilt driven, and not Holy Spirit driven. The fact is that our conscience can be wrongly informed. I grew up with the understanding that watching movies is sin. My first movie that I went to watch due to the pressure of friends was a good, clean, comedy called “the God’s must be crazy”, which I guess you all have watched. Man, I felt guilty while watching it, not because I was under Spirit conviction, but my conscience was formed by the legalism of others. Only afterwards I went and sat down, searched the Scriptures, and concluded that some movies might be wrong some of the time, but it is unbiblical to think that all movies are wrong all the time.


So, my sin was not produced by faith, but a mind-set formed by misinformation. Sometimes it is critical that our conscience be realigned or retrained, but in the meantime be careful that you do not go against your conviction until you are differently convicted. Remember that anything, absolutely any act or attitude which is owing to a lack of trust in God is sin, no matter how moral it may appear to men. God looks on the heart.


The golden rule is to have our consciences formed by the word of God and not by prejudices, traditions, and laws of man. Remember ‘garbage in, garbage out, good stuff in, good stuff out.’ If your conscience is Biblically trained it will always be your guard against sin, and rather do not push past that guard, but search the Scriptures to find out if it is accurate or not.


In the meantime, let us welcome one another, remember that personal conviction is okay, but consider your brother and consider your conscience and you will do well to glorify God in everything you do.


The best place to end this sermon is with Paul’s words from Romans 14:13 (ESV) 13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”



Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church:- 21 February 2021