Romansby David Cook
Every church fellowship is made up of people from different backgrounds. Our unity as Christians is a unity in diversity.
The church in Rome was a good example of such diversity. In this church there were believers from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. The Jewish believers were bound by a law-influenced conscience to observe food regulations (v. 2) and special days (v. 5). The Gentiles had no such scruples.
Paul urged the believers to accept one another and to warmly take each other as companions, just as God had accepted them into His fellowship (v. 3).
Each person is specifically warned in verse 3. The Gentile (the stronger) must not think that he is superior and look down on the tradition-bound Jewish believer (the weaker). Likewise, the Jew must not condemn the uninhibited Gentile by slandering him as worldly. Rather, there is to be warm mutual acceptance. Paul calls these issues that have a tendency to divide “disputable matters” (v. 1). What are these matters?
First, they are the matters listed here: food (v. 2), days (v. 5), and drink (v. 21). “Days” includes the observation of Sabbath (see Col. 2:16). Note: If Paul saw the fourth commandment as still binding, he would not have have included it here among the “disputable matters”.
Second, they are those matters on which the Bible does not speak, or speaks about in an open way, so as to allow believers to have differing views and yet still be one in Christ. These may include differing views of parenting, schooling, politics, church government, sacraments, or music.
We must be careful to recognise disputable matters and not make every issue an indisputable, gospel issue. Making disputable matters indisputable is easy to do and doesn’t require a lot of thought, but it is disruptive to fellowship and energy-sapping, and wastes precious time.
We must also be careful not to turn indisputable matters into disputable ones. The confessing church in Nazi Germany did this when it asked Jewish believers not to attend church. It wanted to respect the conscience of the weaker brothers—non-Jewish believers who were Nazis. But such a request turned an indisputable matter—that all believers, whatever their background, are welcome into the fellowship—into a disputable one. We must be sure that in our local fellowship, we work hard to maintain unity while respecting our diversity.
The foundation of our fellowship is not found in any cultural, political, or denominational expression, but in the fact that Christ died and rose for us, and that we are in Him (v. 9).
How can you work to maintain unity in your local church while respecting the diversity of those within the fellowship?
Is your church known for its warm acceptance of all believers?