Mishandled – The Weaker Brother

In the next series of post I’m going to attempt to address what I would consider one of the most mishandled passages of Scripture within the evangelical fundamentalist movement. Romans 14 and 15 contains a very important principle that has often been manipulated to fit within a constraint of westernized Christianity. As a result the meaning and purpose is often neglected for the sake of an argument. We we are to be mature believers, faithful to the Word of God, and committed to teaching the full countenance of Scripture, we are going to have to set aside our preconceived notions and look at this text with a theological framework and a critical exegesis. This is going to require that we understand the history, context, and purpose of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

In Romans 14:1 Paul says to, “Receive one who is weak in the faith.” The first question that we must ask, is who is the one who is weak in the faith? Typically people will respond by suggesting that it is a new believer. It is true that new believers may be weak in their faith. The gentiles had several issues to get past from their paganism. However, Paul spent more of his time writing confronting the Jewish believers over the gentiles.

Whenever Paul went to a new city, the first place he went was the Jewish temple to see if there were any believing Jews who would acknowledge that Jesus was the Messiah. Since these Jews were already believers, they were added to the church, and quickly became the leaders and elders within their community. Later Paul would reach out to the gentiles and they would be converted into the church as well. It would be natural that the Jewish believers, older in their faith, would need to teach the younger gentile believers.

However, the older Jewish believers were not exempt from being weak in the faith. When we see the two examples used in this passage we see that the ones weak in the faith are those who had a problem with the gentiles eating unclean meat and not observing the feast or Sabbath days that they valued so much. Those weak in the faith were the Jewish believers.

The problem we have today is that many older Christians don’t think that they can be weak in the faith, when if fact, they may be more susceptible than they even know. Many Christians today have a very rigorous structure to what they believe to be right and wrong, though it’s not specific to the Scriptures. They are deceived when they think that their convictions are absolute and universal. Paul calls these issues ‘opinions.’

When Christians hold their opinions in high regard and try to impose their standards on others, they are not only weak in their faith, but they are sinning. Too often Christians will place a standard saying, “You can’t do this or that because you may cause someone who is weak in the faith to sin.” There’s always an illusive weaker brother, but no one is willing to acknowledge their own weakness. Some times I think that when believers gather in an informal manner, whether that be a small group or a mid-week prayer meeting, it should be like an AA meeting. We should all take turns introducing ourselves and stating our weakness. This will do two things. It will help others know what we struggle with us so that they might edify us and it will help keep us aware that we are weak and need considerable improvement.

Paul says to, “Receive one who is weak in the faith.” We are supposed to be accepting and welcoming to other believers who are at different lengths in their spiritual journey. Our goal is to edify our brothers, build them up, and come along side of them to press them on their journey to seek the LORD. However, what we typically do with people that disagree with our convictions is to criticize them, convince them that they’re wrong, or separate from them. In doing se we are directly disobeying Paul’s command to receive one another.

Here should be the standard on whether or not we can worship together.

Do we agree on doctrine?
Do we share the same authority?
Do we have the same mission?

However, these are usually the questions people ask when deciding who they will worship and fellowship with.

Do they share the same convictions?
Do they agree with me in style and preference?
Do they argue from the same opinions?

These are areas that are weak in the faith. This is immaturity. As a result, we have not only accepted immaturity as the norm, but we have promoted it as the standard. This has produced a great mess within Christian communities. One that I fear won’t be resolved in my life time. It would be ideal if we could find a means to get past our prejudices in order to work together for conduct worthy of the gospel, but I fear the only way we will be able to resolve this problem is to prepare the next generation to handle the Scriptures correctly.

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7 Responses to Mishandled – The Weaker Brother

  1. Another thought provoking and stimulating post. I love reading your posts Adam. I agree that we have in the American church slipped into being a little more of a Pharisee then we realize. If we would confess our sins as you suggest, it would bring a new and welcomed openness to our relationships and the reality that we all struggle with sin no matter who we are. I also agree that it would posture empathy and encouragement rather then what I think people are afraid of is “condemnation.” Oh, that the church of America would wake up and live more in transparency and honesty with each other and with God. Thank you for your post!

    • Adam Miller says:

      Thanks Jacquelyn. I’m always comforted to hear others resonate with the Word of God as I do. The more people we can get to pray for this burden, the better we will be able to empower the next generation to face their struggles with true power and authority.

  2. I just saw this posted by Mark Driscoll from Resurgence (not sure if you are familiar with that web site). Thought it was a good quote:

    “The hypocrite is always hoping that people will not find out what his heart is really like. But the believer knows that what is happening on the inside is far more important than what seems to be happening on the outside.” – Philip Ryken

  3. Dana Jackson says:

    Adam,
    Great post, I feel that a big issue today is that Christians do not understand their position in Christ. Paul tells us in Romans that we were baptized into Christ death which put to death the old nature, even better we were raised with Christ making us alive unto to the Father. If we could Reckon these truths as Paul tells us to, our condition would start to reflect our position.

    • Adam Miller says:

      Know Reckon Yield. (Wait, that’s a WOL outline) You’re absolutely right. If we would all seek the LORD and reconcile to truth, we would be filled with the Spirit and capable of living our life Worthy of the Gospel. I always love it when Paul says, if you’re mature. If we promote Biblical maturity, maybe people will have something to strive for. Thanks for commenting Dana.

  4. Pingback: Weak in the Faith, Strong on the Law | Worthy of the Gospel

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