HEAVEN OR HELL ISSUE #4

Is that a heaven and hell issue?  We’ve been looking at that question for a little while now. Today, I want to take another step into Romans 14.  There is no question Paul had laid a strong foundation in the whole book of Romans of many things that had to be done right.  They were indeed heaven and hell issues.  For example, one must understand that we all have a sin problem that we can’t solve on our own and that God planned from before the creation to make a way for our redemption through the gift of His son as a substitute for us so we can be redeemed.  It is vital that we know it was done because of God’s amazing love for us even when we were living in sin.  It is vital that we have a living, obedient, hopeful faith in the Lord, as Abraham did to have salvation.  Such a faith leads to one being buried in baptism and raised to live a new life in Christ.  It also leads to the reception of the Holy Spirit to comfort, lead and intercede with the Father on our behalf.  Such a plan seemed to the Jews to be wrong and out of harmony with what they knew of the Old Testament.  Paul makes it clear that God always had in his plan that all people would be able to come to him, confess his name and be saved in him.  Now we need to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God no longer letting the world set us in it mold but being transformed by the renewing of our minds so we can understand God’s will.

Now in chapter 14 he deals with those matters that often cause division, arguments and confusion among believers in Christ and tells us how to handle such things.  As we move through this whole study we will try to decide how we can know what is a heaven and hell issue and how we can determine that something is a matter of conscience or opinion.  Traditions, habits and ways to doing things that set us apart from others aren’t bad things at all, as long as we know they are traditions, habits and our ways, not that they are God’s law that must be followed by everyone.  Just think of all the absolutely silly things that have separated good people who both believed in Christ and wanted to follow his word.  Such issues as whether you can eat in the church building, whether it is right to have a rest room in the church building, whether Bible classes for children are right, whether you can use individual communion cups and whether it is right to clap in church.

Let’s take our next step in Romans 14:5-12.  “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike.  Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.  Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord.  Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.  For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord.  So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.  For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.  You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt?  For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  It is written: ‘As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before me; and every tongue will acknowledge God.’  So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.”

Think about the Holy Spirit guiding Paul to tell us that there were those in the church who really thought some days were much more important or significant than others.  He may have been thinking of the Sabbath that many of the Jewish believers continued to observe or he may have been thinking of the first day of the week when Christians came together to worship the Lord.  He could even have been thinking of special days people in times like ours would celebrate such as Christmas and Easter.  It is certain the point would apply to such days.  It intrigues me when you compare this with what he wrote to the church in Colossae in Colossians 2:16-17.  “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath Day.  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”  Such things were not part of God’s plan in the New Covenant and certainly not to be bound on others.  Yet in our personal worship and action we should be fully convinced in our own mind, follow our conscience and stop judging others who see it differently.

But, if I think such things are not opinion but matters of law from God, shouldn’t I try to convince others I’m right about it?  As certainly as Paul spoke the truth in this passage the answer is “NO”.  You keep studying and if you realize you’ve been mistaken then change, but don’t make such matters an excuse to cause division in the church or a fuss among the members.  One of the hardest lessons it seems to me for us to learn is that we can be fully convinced of a thing and follow our conscience on the matter but not judge others who disagree.  Let them be fully convinced in their own mind and follow their conscience.  Don’t confuse your preferences for matters God has spoken about and said we should do in some particular way.

Our influence on other people is extremely important.  We are light to the world and salt to the earth.  We don’t live to ourselves or die to ourselves.  When I believe something and commit such action to the Lord in worship and service to Him I’m being a great influence on others.  When I believe something and not only follow it myself, commit it to God but also try to bind it on everyone else, I become the lawgiver and judge rather than Jesus and my influence drives people away from the Lord rather than drawing them to him.

I love the church of the Lord and believe it is the body of Christ.  But I thank God we aren’t called before God to be judged as a church.  I love my family dearly and I believe I would lay down my life for them at any time.  But I’m glad we don’t appear before God’s judgment as a family.  He said it clearly.  “Each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.”  So be honest and re-examine your ideas.  Be devoted and fully convinced in your own mind.  Live by what you believe is true.  Don’t judge those who believe differently.  Jesus is the one judge and he doesn’t need my help in deciding anyone’s guilt or innocence before him.  Don’t try to bind my ideas, opinions and traditions on anyone other than me!  That means I won’t bind them on my wife or husband, on my children or parents, on the local church where I attend or on my friends who might want to know about Jesus but have no interest in my peculiar ideas.  If we truly followed such a plan it would bring about love and unity among those who love and follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
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