SERVANTS IN THE KINGDOM; Romans Part 69

If the Church is defined by the Gospel then why should we destroy the work of God over matters that have no relevance to the Gospel? In the Roman Church these issues were meat, drink and holy days. In our day and culture these issues could be personal disputes, political opinions, individual differences over matters which are not easily proved from Scripture and which have no no relevance to the Gospel.

God’s People Divided

(b) Serving The Kingdom

romans-14v17

Romans 14:17-23

 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.  For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.  Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.  For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.   It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.   Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.   And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

In the first section of the 14th Chapter Paul challenged the Roman Christians about divisive issues that threatened the future of the Church. He showed them that the areas which caused conflict; food, diet and the observance of Holy Days; were minor details and should not be allowed to disrupt church life. In this passage, Paul continues with this vein of thought by teaching Christians that they ought to be servants, servants of the Kingdom.

1: Appreciation of the Kingdom v17

 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

The Kingdom of God has various meanings in Scripture. In the Old Testament the phrase defines Israel, the Theocratic State (Exodus 19:6). The entire universe is God’s Kingdom because he is Creator and Governor of all things (Psalm 103:19). The dominant definition of the “Kingdom” in both Old and New Testaments, however, is the domain of the Messiah, Christ our Mediator. It is only through Him that the throne of David became established forever (2 Samuel 7:16, Isaiah 9:6). This Kingdom is the Church which continues on while earthly Kingdoms rise and decline.

What Christ’s Kingdom is not – The Church is not defined by narrow views and practises which are little more than personal opinions, such as meat and drink.

What Christ’s Kingdom is – This is one of the most important New Testament definitions of the Church – “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost”. This is none other than an exposition of the Gospel. Righteousness refers to the perfect righteousness of Christ and to the manner in which he satisfied divine justice through his sacrifice. Peace is the product of Christ’s redemptive work as man is brought into a state of harmony with God. Those who receive the merits of Christ possess the Holy Spirit and as a consequence they receive true joy. The Church consists of people who believe and have received this message. The Church’s purpose is to defend and preach this, the only Gospel.

2: Acceptance in the Kingdom v18a

For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God

For our service to be acceptable to God within the Kingdom we must regard the Gospel as the most vital element in Church life. Being a Jew, Paul had been taught that outward rituals were necessary to win acceptance by God. When he met with Christ on the Damascus he discovered that this was not the case; “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ” (Philippians 3:7). Church division is caused when we elevate our own ideas and practices above the Gospel, the true source of Christian unity.

3: Approval for the Kingdom v18b

and approved of men.

Paul now says something that appears strange and uncharacteristic – when we elevate the Gospel in Church life we will be “approved by men”. The same man was opposed by and persecuted by men and Christ himself said that his people were to expect tribulation. The key to understanding this is found in the Greek word translated “approved”. In Greek and Roman society the system of coinage was greatly abused. counterfeitBecause coins had rough edges and because they tended to be of various weights people would have shaved them, thereby gathering enough pieces to melt down to make counterfeit coins. There were many laws banning this practice. Genuine coins were known as “dokimos” and the merchants who would only trade in this coinage were “dokimos” also – approved. Those within the Church and those without the Church should recognise Christians as being the genuine article – counterfeit Christianity never wins respect. A Christianity which elevates legalistic rules and narrow earthbound opinions above the Gospel will never win the world nor change society.

4: Application to the Kingdom v19-23

Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.  For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.   It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.   Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.   And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

Those who truly understand the Kingdom of God will apply themselves to the advancement of Christ’s cause on earth. These verses are repetitious because Paul is emphasising what he has already taught within the context of the Kingdom. If the Church is defined by the Gospel then why should we destroy the work of God over matters that have no relevance to the Gospel? In the Roman Church these issues were meat, drink and holy days. In our day and culture these issues could be personal disputes, political opinions, individual differences over matters which are not easily proved from Scripture and which have no no relevance to the Gospel. Paul was well aware of the consequences of unnecessary division – it would destroy the work of God. God wants us to build up the Church by building up one another (v19). We build up one another by following peace (v19), by respecting personal conscience (v20), by taking the humble path and setting our own preferences aside rather cause offence (v21) and in so doing we live unto God (v21-22).

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