Current Issues and Romans 14

Jimmy Tuten, Jr.
Tallmadge, Ohio

In an effort to appease brethren who are practicing the unauthorized with reference to the work of the church, some (who are more weak-minded than sound in the faith) are advocating that we go along with the liberals, that we fellowship them even though there is a basis for disagreement. We should try to teach them the truth later, we are told. At the present there are some who are fellowshipping error. In an effort to get others to do the same, these "fellowship liberals" proponents are teaching that the problems concerning "institutionalism" and "sponsoring churches" fall into the same category as the items listed in Romans 14. Some are being carried away with their subtlety.

What this means is that if the issues can be classified with the items in the Romans 14, then we who oppose these innovations have sinned in making it a test of fellowship. Instead of the innovator bearing the guilt for practicing the unathorized, we who oppose the additions are the culprits who have caused the division. This is exactly what the liberals have been saying, i.e., the "antis" are causing the division, when they themselves actually bear the guilt.

In Missouri a couple of years ago I heard a very gifted brother preach on Romans 14 and argue that institutionalism does not affect our fellowship any more than eating meat or observing of days. Why then should we withhold fellowship from institutional brethren? Why cant we go along with them until we can teach them the truth? Do the issues fall into the same category as Romans 14? No, they do not.

Things God Has Not Bound

Romans 14 deal with things that God has not bound. Eating meats and observing days are lawful and harmless in and of themselves. Paul said, "there is nothing unclean of itself" (Rom. 14:14). Again he said, "Let not your good be evil spoken of" (Rom. 14:16). This means that such matters as discussed in the passage involve freedom of action and liberty (Rom. 14:18, 22). This is true regardless of the action or position held. The same end is in view for both parties, i.e.. the interest of the Lord (Rom. 14:6-9, 17). This is the determining factor as illustrated in verse eight where prominence is given to the Lord three times. Has God bound matters pertaining to work of the church? Yes. God bound the organization to do the work (i.e., the church) and had bound the work itself (evangelism, edification and benevolence). We are not at liberty to do as we please when it comes to the work of the church (2 Jno. 9; Col. 3: 17). We call upon the brethren who put the issues into the category of Romans 14 to prove the very thing they are assuming. Let them demonstrate from the scriptures that the issues are the same as eating meats or observing of days. Their position is a bold, brazen assumption. Lets not hold our breath while waiting for them to prove their point.

Things That Are Right

Items classed with those mentioned in Romans 14 would have to be things which are right. Those who practice the things mentioned in the text are not condemned. Paul said, "for God hath received him." The one who is strong in the faith and eats meat is acceptable to God. The one who does not eat meat is likewise acceptable (Rom. 14:3). If institutionalism, sponsoring churches, campaigns for Christ, etc., are classed with Romans 14, their practice cannot be wrong. God has received them and we who oppose them are foolish in doing so. Can one not see that this is tantamount to fighting against God? But this is what needs to be proven! When it is done, I for one will cease my opposition. Just saying that the issues fall into the category of Romans 14 does not make it so. It is nothing more than a deceitful tactic.

Paul classed himself among those who are strong in the faith when he said, "I know, and ant persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean of itself" (V. 14). Again, "now we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak" (Rom. 15: 1). My point is this: why did Paul stress the all-sufficiency of the church if it cannot do its work without the aid of outside organizations (Heb. 12:27; Eph. 1:22-23; 3: 8-11; 1 Tim. 3: 15; 5: 16)? It is a historical fact that the early church did its own work without the aid of other organizations. Sponsoring churches, orphans homes, and the arrangements as practiced now were unknown to the first century Christians. Surely brethren would have practiced these things, or arrangements like them if they were a part of Romans 14. The fact that Paul did not advocate this and the early Christians did not practice them demonstrates that it was and is not a part of Gods plan or scheme of redemption.

Things of Which the Kingdom Does Not Consist

Romans 14-17 says, "for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." Hence, the things classed in the section are not of the kingdom. They are matters which pertained to ones physical welfare as an individual in the personal liberties of every day life. They are not a part of those spiritual principles which make up the kingdom of God. But the issues facing the church today are a part of the kingdom (unlawfully so) because it is an abuse of the work God gave the church to do. The work of the church is most assuredly a part of the kingdom!

By doing the will of the Father one enters the kingdom (Matt. 7: 21). Religious acts that are not a part of the will of God are lawlessness, (i.e., iniquity, without law). The all-sufficiency of the church to do what God has commanded it to do is a part of the revealed will of God (1 Cor. 2:9-16; 1 Tim. 2:15; Phil 4:15-17; 1 Tim. 5:16; Acts 6:1-5). Therefore, the work assigned the church is a part of the kingdom. Since the issues involve that which is a part of the kingdom, it cannot be classed with Romans 14.

Things Involving The Conscience

Read Romans 14 carefully. The things that are classed therein are determined by ones personal conscience (Vv. 14, 2:3). The "whatsoever is not of faith is sin" refers to ones personal conviction of what is right. If one acts contrary to his conviction, he violates his conscience and sins though the thing one is right within itself. The whole chapter deals with things done by the individual, which are right inherently and are considered right. If they are done without the conviction that they are right, then they are sin. The issues that affect the church are not a part of and never were a part f the category of Romans 14. Matters relating to institutions, the Herald of Truth, sponsoring churches and campaigns, etc., are not matters to be settled by ones own conscience. It is settled by the word of God (2 John 9; Jude 3). It would be impossible to settle this by appealing to the consciences of brethren for the simple reason that mankind is made up of those with different consciences. The conscience is not the basis for determining a position relative to the will of God (Mk. 11: 30-33; Acts 26:9; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). The will of God is revealed in the New Testament (Jude 3; 1 Cor. 2:9-16). If the issues are wrong because some by conscience consider them wrong, then would the fact that some by conscience consider them right, make them right? Of course not. In all good conscience Paul persecuted the church. Did he do right? No, even though be acted in good conscience.

An Appeal To Romans 14:19

Those who wish to place the current issue in the category of Romans 14 are most inconsistent and are not following the teaching of the context. Paul says, "let us therefore follow after the things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another"(V. 19). Look at the havoc left in the wake of institutionalism: divided churches, quarrellings, children set against parents, parents against children, long friendships broken, wasted money that belongs to the Lord and a long list of other things. If we would but follow the injunction of Paul, all innovations would cease. It is not our practice that is causing the division in the brotherhood. This is why the liberals will not let us affirm our position. The innovator caused the division. If we want peace, the innovators will have to cease. But liberals and those favoring them conveniently observe the passover regarding Romans 14: 19. Actions speak louder than words.

January 4, 1973