his is a transcription of a public message given by Robert Grove in California. This is a day when the attitude of most people is accurately described as being, “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” The pressure from the religious world is to convince Christians that there is no value in maintaining separation from the world in values, conduct, recreation and appearance.
The focus of this message is to rightly divide portions of scripture that can be “handled deceitfully,” causing Christians to feel that maintaining separation from the world is not only undesirable, but wrong. By some, separation from the world is sometimes even considered to be unloving.
I want to express my thanks to the Lord for those who transcribed, edited, proofread and typed so that this message could be put into print. Without your labors it would never have been completed. Believing you have done this work as unto the Lord, I want to remind you that He has promised “…whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” (COL 3:23 & 24) In addition, I want to express my personal gratitude to you all.
Robert A. Grove
December 13, 1996
We Must Rightly Divide Even in Practical Areas of Life
May God help us to rightly divide his word and practically apply this passage, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1&2.
If you rightly divide or wrongly divide the word of truth the way some people do, you will find that there are portions of scripture that basically give you the right to do just about anything and everything that your heart, mind, or flesh could conceive of and prohibits anyone from making any judgment or evaluation of the spirituality or the right or wrong of any action, because everything is all right. For example:
1 Corinthians 10:23 –The first part of that verse says, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient.”
Look down to verse 29, the last part of that verse, “..for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?” All things are lawful, then why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?
Turn back to 1 Corinthians 6:12. Again, the first part of that verse, “All things are lawful unto me.”
In Romans 14:14. “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus.” There’s no question about who the author of this persuasion is, and so this is, of course, a very important passage in handling the word of God the way I’m handling it right now (Which is deceitful and unbiblical). “I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself.” There is nothing unclean of itself.
Skip down to verse 20 of the same chapter. In the center sentence, right out of the middle of this verse–“all things indeed are pure.” Paul says that he knows and is persuaded of the Lord Jesus that there is nothing that is unclean of itself and all things are pure. Already he has expressed twice that all things are lawful for him and posed a question, “Why should I be judged of another man’s conscience?”
I’m sure that by now you are getting that feeling of liberation—(because of my misuse of these passages of scripture. Read them in context and you will see.)
I would hope you are (getting this feeling of liberation), if what I am saying is the truth. Because it’s obvious that God’s word, AS WE ARE HANDLING IT, teaches that (A) all things are lawful and (B) your liberty should not be judged of another man’s conscience. (This is an example of wrongly dividing the word not “rightly dividing…” as we are told 2Tim 2:15-16)
Now turn to 1 Samuel 16. I’m sure that some of you have heard these verses used a little bit like I’m using them. The reason I’m going over these verses this way is that I hope the LIE THAT I AM PRESENTING AT THIS POINT BECOMES OBVIOUS. If I can make it obvious enough, then I can help you to not believe it. Because WHAT I’M DOING IS HANDLING THE WORD OF GOD DECEITFULLY.
In 1 Samuel 16, we read in verse 7:“The Lord said unto Samuel, look not in his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him; for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
Therefore, the conclusion some would draw from this is— that what you look like really isn’t important at all. What is on the outside doesn’t make any difference. It’s no reflection on what’s on the inside. It makes no difference because God looks on the heart, and therefore, what the world sees (your fellow man) is not really important at all.
Now turn to Matthew 7. And I know that you’ve all heard this passage before. But this one takes every right of censor or evaluation away from anyone else. Let me remind you that in John 7:24, consistent with what we just read in Samuel 16:7, we’re told NOT to judge after appearance. God looks on the heart, man looks on the outside. But actually, in Matthew 7, the Lord Jesus Christ takes it all away anyway. He says, “Judge not.” (Again, some would tell us the bible teachers) don’t judge anything at all—this is what many would have us believe.
Now turn back to Romans 14. And again the Apostle Paul in Romans 14 makes it very clear, in verse 13, “Let us not therefore judge one another anymore.”
So that you will not realize how the scripture is being distorted, please close your Bibles. Don’t read any of the contexts surrounding the verses of scripture that I’ve read, don’t stop and reflect soberly on whether what I’ve given is really true to God’s word, and let me summarize what I have put together this ungodly, unbiblical way.
All things are lawful for me. Therefore, of course, they would also be true for you. There is nothing unclean. All things are pure. God judges the heart and not the outward appearance. Therefore, what the world sees on the outside makes no difference. And if it made any difference, you don’t have any right to judge me and I have no right to judge you, because the Bible says, “Judge not.”
We’ve gone over eight passages of scripture. We extracted from them thoughts and statements based on words that are really there in the passages. We’ve put them together and we’ve drawn conclusions. The conclusions we’ve drawn basically have said it’s quite all right for you or for me to follow the world and its:
(1) standards of conduct, (2) standard of morality, (3) standard of dress, and grooming. (4) Also it would be ALL RIGHT to spend our time in the same way the world spends its time—(in enjoying the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life”).
We could do this because, according to our MISUSE of the scripture, all things are lawful and nothing is unclean of itself and all things are pure and we shouldn’t judge.
Now to me this is a classic example of WRONGLY DIVIDING the Word of Truth. All of these scriptures have been MISUSED by others this way in the past.
I’ve not heard anybody put all of these scriptures together like this at one time, so don’t misunderstand me. The “god of this world, who blinds the minds” of people from the “glorious gospel of Jesus Christ” is too smart to put these arguments all together this way at one time. It would be too obvious. But I have heard all of those scriptures used to support the fact that individuals can cater to their flesh and should have liberty to cater to their flesh without being censored or evaluated or judged by their brothers or sisters in Christ. For those who make these type of arguments to have the ministry pointedly admonish them to “LOVE NOT THE WORLD NEITHER THE THINGS THAT ARE IN THE WORLD” (Romans 12:1-2) is particularly obnoxious to them.
A more obvious example of wrongly dividing the scripture might be this, “JUDAS HANGED HIMSELF”, “GO THOU AND DO THOU LIKEWISE”. “WHAT THOU DOEST, DO THOU QUICKLY”. That’s no more a misuse of scripture than what I have laid out concerning the walk of a Christian. Putting together the fact that all things are pure, there’s nothing unclean of itself, all things are lawful for me, God judges the heart, man judges on the outward, judge not after outward appearance and judge not, is no less a misuse of scripture than “JUDAS HANGED HIMSELF, GO THOU AND DO THOU LIKEWISE. WHAT THOU DOEST DO THOU QUICKLY.” One is no more truth of God’s word than the other.
Now let’s try to unravel this a little more slowly. Back up and let’s go to I Samuel 16 again. Let’s see what really is being said and then let’s compare that with other scriptures and see what God has said about the question of God looking on the heart versus man looking on the outward appearance.
In the first place, in the context, Samuel is trying to select a king. He starts out in verse 6 with Eliab. “It came to pass when they were come that he looked on Eliab and said, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.’” He felt this must be the one the Lord would want to be king. He knew he had the right family, and the fellow was a good looking fellow. He had a kingly bearing and appearance. So Samuel thought this must be the one.
But in verse 7 God comments to him, “Look not on his countenance or on the height of his stature, because I have refused him.” Did he refuse him because he was too tall and too good looking? No, that wasn’t the reason. God has ability NO human being has. He has the ability to look on the heart. Though Samuel could look at his face, eyes, confirmation, height, and his muscles, he could not look on the heart. So the Lord tells Samuel: “The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” We are told that David was a man after God’s own heart. THE SUBJECT IS NOT THE OUTWARD TESTIMONY. IT IS GOD’S EVALUATION OF WHAT’S ON THE INSIDE.
As the story develops, all of Jesse’s sons are evaluated by Samuel and God. The one God wants is not among them and so David is called in from caring for the sheep. When David is brought in he is described this way, “RUDDY AND WITH ALL A BEAUTIFUL COUNTENANCE AND GOODLY TO LOOK TO.”
If it is true that what one looks like makes no difference, I wonder why that’s stated. David, too, was a good looking man, but there was an element that God could judge that Samuel could not judge. That element was his heart’s condition. In effect, God was saying, “Not only is this a man, who looks like a King, this is a man who has the kind of heart I want.” So Samuel was commanded to anoint him to be King in Israel. If this passage teaches anything, it teaches the opposite of the way I misused it earlier. The fact that God looks on the heart, but man looks on the outward appearance says, IT IS VERY IMPORTANT WHAT I LOOK LIKE, AND WHAT I DO, AND WHERE I GO, AND HOW I SPEND MY TIME, AND WHAT COMES OUT OF MY MOUTH, because these are the ONLY THINGS THAT ANY HUMAN BEING CAN SEE. This is what “letting our light so shine” is all about. It is the aspects of our life that people can see— our lifestyle.
Turn to Matthew Chapter 5, and now let’s look at some scriptures that deal specifically with what God says about the way we look, the way we act, the way we talk and the way we live. We will find that God makes what he wants very clear in His word.
When it comes to our Christian life, it’s only when we’ve given of ourselves that we’re going to want to find out what God wants us to do. How does He want us to live?
Verse 13 of Matthew 5. “Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt hath lost his savor where with shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world, A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth forth light to all that are in the house.”
Matthew 5:16 says clearly, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works.” People who live around you can’t see your heart. When it came to choosing between Eliab and David, God saw the heart, but Samuel didn’t see the heart. And so God, directing Samuel, was making a choice on the basis of what God saw. In no way is this an implication that, it makes no difference how a person conducts themselves as far as pleasing God or being a witness to man by your good works; “they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Turn to Matthew 7:15. “Beware of false prophets.” When it comes to the question of who you follow in spiritual leadership, which is important, talk or walk? The important thing is not their talk, but their walk.
I have known of Christians who claim that we should judge spiritual leadership on the basis of their talk, not their walk. This is exactly the opposite of what God says.
Matthew 7:15 says, “Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; But a corrupt tree bringeth forth corrupt fruit.. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
BY THEIR FRUITS. You can’t see my heart. I can’t see your heart. No one can see another’s heart, whether you are brothers or sisters in Christ among ourselves or whether we are as a light in a dark world. The apostle Paul tells us that a light is what we are to be in Philippians 2:15.
THE ONLY THING THAT PEOPLE CAN SEE IS WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE, WHAT YOU TALK LIKE AND WHAT YOU ACT LIKE; that’s all they can see. They cannot look on your heart.
Let’s look at Romans 12:1. “I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service.”
This verse gets to where the rubber meets the road. I BESEECH YOU BY THE MERCIES OF GOD. The unmerited favor of God was extended to us primarily in the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Present your bodies a living sacrifice.” That may be one thing to you; it may be something else to me. It may be something I have to give up that you don’t have to give up. There may be something you have to give up that I don’t have to give up. There may be something that we both should give up and it doesn’t mean anything to me, but it means something to you. A “living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” How are you going to demonstrate that you’re not conformed, but that you are transformed? You may say, “My heart is transformed.” The problem is, how are you going to show that your heart is transformed? How are you going to let your light shine if it isn’t reflected by your appearance, your conduct, your lifestyle?
James 4:4 “You adulterer and adulteress, know you not that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God.” I’ve heard of people that hide their television in their closets. If this is true, that is bad enough, because TV will influence the people who do such a thing. Also, how will this effect children if they have any? If no one knows, we’ll always find it necessary to answer to God. Why would we want to have that kind of friendship with the world? Why would we want to allow this instrument to have its influence in our life? If it does anything at all, it will cause us to be conformed to this world. Friendship with this world is enmity with God. “Love not the world, (1John 2:15) neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
Look at 1 Timothy 2. Here are a couple of passages of scripture that deal primarily with appearance, relevant to women. This is where 1 Samuel 16 is often misapplied. Because as some would argue, “After all, I can love the Lord and I can have a beautiful spiritual relationship with the Lord and it doesn’t make any difference whether I obey the instructions given in this scripture or not. It doesn’t make any difference because the Lord looks on the heart and it doesn’t make any difference what I look like on the outside.” If it doesn’t make any difference, then pray tell why did God have recorded for us some instructions concerning what we look like on the outside?
Let’s look at 1 Timothy 2:8, “I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands.” Holding up hands that because of the Godly conduct of the individual are clean and pure in a world that is corrupt and vile. And if that is the commitment of your heart, then you need to guide your eyes and your mind in what you put in your heart and mind through your eyes and your ears, what you listen to, what you talk about, who you talk to, what you watch and what you read. It’s pretty hard, in the society in which we live, to go through life, even if you avoid what you can avoid of immorality and immodesty and indecency. You can’t avoid it all anyway, but it’s going to make a difference what you voluntarily and willfully put in your mind and heart.
“In like manner also women adorn themselves.” I think it’s important here that we note that the apostle Paul is talking about what’s on the outside. If 1 Samuel 16:7 is saying God looks on the heart, man looks on the outside only, and that it doesn’t make any difference what you look like, then why is Paul saying this? Because he’s talking about what you look like on the outside. And he’s going to tell the way you need to look. He is going to tell you to do these things. The apostle Paul is also going to tell us there are some things you shouldn’t do.
“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety.” Adorn themselves with modest apparel with shamefacedness and sobriety. If you look up the word modest, it’s defined as “to observe the proprieties of sex, to be chaste, to be decent, unpretentious.” In other words, you’re not going to be flaunting the sexual attractiveness of the woman. Shamefacedness is defined not as one that doesn’t have sense of humor, or one that can’t laugh at a joke, but one that is not a flirt. I define it from the negative sense. Actually, the definition is bashful toward men, modest. In other words what Paul is describing is a woman that is not a flirt, one that is NOT pushy, but one that has a humble and quiet spirit.
Increasingly today, men are tempted to conform to the various trends of the world. Usually trends in fashion are set by those who the world looks up to. In most cases today, they are people whose lifestyle is the opposite of what God wants us as Christians to be. Take haircuts, or facial hair. The fact is that God has not said that my hair should be groomed in a certain way. So the big question is, “WHO AM I FOLLOWING?” Or possibly, “Who does it LOOK LIKE I am following?” In fashion the only thing for sure is that it will change. What is in today will be out tomorrow and what is out today will come back in.
God doesn’t say, “Don’t wear long side burns, or don’t shave your sideburns off,” but he does say, “Don’t follow the world.” He doesn’t say, “Don’t wear this style or color of shirt or this type or color of pants.” He does say, “Don’t follow the world.” As far as testimony, he says, “Don’t look like you’re following the world.” Who are you following? Who does it look like you are following? That’s what’s important. Who are you following? Why? Why are you doing it? While in the area of our outward appearance, the scripture focuses on the ladies. There is sound reason for this but some of the same concerns apply to the men also.
Did you ever wonder why people try so hard to look like other people? Did you ever consider that we try to look like the people we look up to? It is obvious that if it really doesn’t matter, we wouldn’t try so hard to look like other people. Usually we try to look like people in certain elements of society. It may be all right to look a certain way, but it’s important to look like Christians should and to pattern ourselves after the elements of society whose lifestyle is not in conflict with the way a Christian should live. This should be the commitment of our heart. Don’t let anybody tell you that what you look like on the outside doesn’t make any difference on the basis of 1 Samuel 16:7. That isn’t what its teaching and that violates the basics of scripture in many areas.
James 2:20 Here is a verse that we don’t use as much as we ought to. It says, “…faith without works is…”, what? DEAD! “Faith without works is dead. Show me your faith without works , and I’ll show you my faith by my works”(verse 18). The life that we live should be a representation of what we are on the inside.
In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul says that long hair was given a woman as a sign to the angels that she was under the power of, or in subjection to, her husband. If you whack it off, that doesn’t prove you’re not in subjection to your husband, per se. It may prove you don’t know any better. It may not prove anything other than that. You let it grow and it doesn’t prove that you’re in subjection to your husband. It of itself doesn’t. No argument. God looks on your heart. He knows what your long hair proves. If you do know what God’s word says and you don’t let your hair grow, then it says something about you. It at least says you don’t realize the importance of what God says is important. And that’s true in every aspect of Christian life and Christian walk. Here is something that convinces me more and more of the validity of the endeavor that we make in helping Christians walk separate from the world. Whenever someone leaves a walk/fellowship with Christians, where the truth I am going over is taught, here is what happens: Bang, Bang, Bang! They get a television, women crop their hair, they begin to wear pants, and away they go. Why? Because now they can do what their flesh wanted to do all along, and no one is trying to be faithful to them. However, it says something about their heart, doesn’t it? It says something about what is on the inside. May the Lord help us to be a true representation of our heart’s condition, whatever that is. Don’t pretend to want to serve the Lord if that isn’t where your heart is. On the other hand, if in your heart you want to please the Lord, then live so people can look at you and tell there is a difference on the inside.
Now let’s turn to Romans 14. I want to stay with Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 and 1 Corinthians 10 a bit, because, I don’t know. I guess I’m the kind of fellow that if I get my nose rubbed in something enough times, I finally feel like it’s time to do something about it. I’ve had people misrepresent and misuse Romans 14 to me so many times that I finally think it’s time to sit down and try to help saints understand what Romans 14 is talking about. I know that Romans 14 isn’t teaching that there is nothing unclean of itself and all things are pure. First of all, that would conflict with the body of scripture from Genesis to Revelation. It can’t possibly be teaching that, because there are too many passages of scripture that deal with the subject of both spiritual and physical uncleanness. “There’s nothing unclean of itself.” No one believes that statement without qualification. Nothing? Is adultery clean? Is fornication? No Christian who knows anything of the scripture should contend this is true.
Look at Romans 13. Back up to verse 11.“And that knowing the time that now it is high time to wake out of sleep. For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent. The day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness.” “But Paul,” you are going to say in a few minutes, “there’s nothing unclean of itself”. What about works of darkness?” Well, obviously he doesn’t include in “nothing” the “works of darkness” because he says— “Let us cast off the works of darkness.” “But Paul,” you are going to say in a few moments, “all things are pure.” Well, unless Paul is a totally confused individual and has no consistency in his logic as he expresses himself, he is not going to at one time tell us to cast off the works of darkness and then a few verses later tell us that they are pure. “Let us put on the Armour of Light. Let us walk honestly as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness.” Well Paul, nothing is wrong with drunkenness. There’s nothing “unclean of itself”. There’s nothing wrong with rioting. All things are pure. No, that’s not rightly dividing the Word of Truth (11 Timothy 2:15).
Sometimes when people object to us using the phrase, “rightly dividing” (11 Timothy 2:15), on the dispensational chart that we use, they say more accurately the phrase should be translated “handle a right.” Handling the Word of God “a right.” Fine, I don’t have any problem with that thought. It’s not handling the Word of God right to say that Romans 14:14 teaches nothing is unclean of itself. Therefore, absolutely nothing is unclean of itself. That’s ridiculous. “Let us walk honestly as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness not in clamoring and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.” Can you make provision for the flesh to fulfill the lust thereof? You sure can. And if you do, is that unclean? It sure is. And is it lawful? It sure isn’t. So you’ve got to back up and let the context and scriptures define or limit, as the case may be, what is meant by the expression “there is nothing unclean of itself.” There are several expressions like that in Romans 14.
Now let’s look at Romans 14. To start with, I think we need to understand who Paul is writing to. Romans 14:1 “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye but not to doubtful disputation.” Who is Paul talking to? Sometimes we say in analyzing the scriptures that we need to ask four questions:
(1) who’s speaking
(2) to whom is he speaking
(3) on whose authority and
(4) for what period of time?
Who is Paul speaking to? “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye…” Who is Paul talking to? Strong believers. The “ye” is not the weak, but the strong. Chapter 15 makes it a little clearer. Look at verse 1 of 15: “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves.” Who is Paul talking to there? The strong. Now look at 1 Corinthians 8:1. “Now as touching things offered unto idols we know that we all have knowledge.” Who is Paul talking to? Knowledgeable Christians— those that have knowledge. Look at verse 9. “Take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block.” Who is he talking to? Those with liberty. Look at Verse 11. “And through thy knowledge shall thy weak brother perish for whom Christ has died.” Who is he talking to? Knowledgeable Christians. And in this case knowledgeable in contrast to the weak.
Look at 1 Corinthians 10. Look at verse 29. “Conscience, I say, not thine own him but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?” What kind of man is he talking to? One with liberty. A man with liberty.
Now go back to Romans 14. We will be jumping back and forth between these scriptures. The expression here is to one who is strong. There’s a secondary expression going the other way, but it’s primarily the one who is strong. The interesting thing is whenever I’ve heard anybody abuse Romans 14 and 15, 1 Corinthians 8 and 1 Corinthians 10, they apply it this way. “I am strong, therefore I have liberty to do this and it won’t hurt me. Please get off my back.” It’s seldom that people put it that way, but that’s the bottom line. “Don’t judge me for what I do.” The interesting thing is that if you learn anything from Romans 14 and 15, 1 Corinthians 8, and 1 Corinthians 10, handled properly, you’ll learn that if you are strong and you do have liberty from God to do something, you are going to be willing to give it up. You’re going to give it up when it would cause someone else to fall or stumble. You’re not going to insist on exercising your rights because you are strong. You are going to defer to those who are weaker. You are going to defer because you are stronger. But I’ve never heard anyone who was conforming to the world use this verse, rightly divided, and prove their strength by giving up what their flesh might enjoy.
There have been times when men have wanted to do something that older brethren recognized wouldn’t be in the best interest of themselves, their families, or the assembly and asked them not to do it. At times they insisted and went ahead because “they had liberty”. It wouldn’t bother them. And they were strong spiritually. When they did insist on going ahead, all they proved was that they weren’t strong. They were weak. And that the liberty that they were contending for was not spiritual liberty.
Now let’s read on though the chapter. “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye (ye that are strong), but not to doubtful disputation.” There are those who would contend that “doubtful disputation” is any application of biblical principles to contemporary society that’s not specifically mentioned in the scriptures. That’s not true. Doubtful disputations, as it’s used in this context, are those things that whether you do it or whether you don’t do it, it doesn’t make any difference to God.
As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8, concerning whether you eat meat or whether you don’t, you’re not the better if you do and you’re not the worse if you don’t. It doesn’t make any difference.
So to get into a dispute in those areas that are mute, as far as sin, is a doubtful disputation. It’s not something that requires the application of Biblical principles to our life. That expression that I used just a moment ago is an expression taken from the announcer for a fellow in California, who has been very popular among some. He is quite a dynamic speaker and radio preacher. His announcer tells us that his program is a program that, among other things, is an “application of Biblical principles to contemporary society”.
Sometimes when you try to help Christians make application of biblical principles (such as I’ve already gone over) to contemporary society, they say that’s doubtful disputation. Now that isn’t true. That isn’t true. Biblical principles have always been or have always required the application to contemporary society. Contemporary society is the society in which you live. That was true when the apostle Paul wrote the books that he wrote. Paul wrote 1Timothy 2 and Titus 2. And Peter wrote 1 Peter 3. There had to be application of those principles to contemporary society at that time. Today there has to be application of Biblical principles to today. Those are not doubtful disputations. They are not opinions. They are applications.
“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. One believes that he may eat all things. Another who is weak eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not, and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth, for God hath received him. One man esteemeth one day above another. Another esteemeth every day alike.” I could have factored this into my mishandling: Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. Whatever you think. Whatever you judge to be right. But again, there are some limitations on that parameter—(“fully persuaded in his own mind”). A strong brother recognizes that he can eat meat. A weak brother feels that he cannot eat meat. Does God care whether you eat meat or don’t eat meat? God doesn’t care.
There may be people here in this audience who don’t eat meat for health reasons. God doesn’t care. There may be people in this audience that do eat meat for health reasons. God doesn’t care. I believe that in the second point here he deals with two factors. One is days and the other is meat. And the way it’s set forth here, apparently, it isn’t clean and unclean meat but it’s meat in contrast to vegetables. Then he deals with the subject of days. “He that regardeth the day regardeth it unto the Lord,” verse 6. “He that regardeth not the day to the Lord he does not regard the day.” Is that talking about any day? Could somebody go out and worship Ishtar and do that as unto the Lord? No. Could somebody go out and worship the Queen of Heaven or Baal or Moloch? No, God spoke pretty pointedly to questions about those days in Jeremiah 7:17. Jeremiah comments on baking cakes to the Queen of Heaven. And in Ezekiel 8, weeping for Tammuz. Again in Ezekiel 20:39, “Pollute ye my holy name no more.” Pollute ye my holy name no more. So somebody couldn’t weep for Tammuz as unto the Lord. So again we’ve got to come back to the period of time. What do we have? We’ve got Jews to whom God gave certain days that were Sabbath days, holy days. And there were Jews as of Acts 21, many thousands of Jews, who believe. And that’s very few years prior to the writing of the Book of Romans. “Thou seeth, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:” They were keeping the Passover Supper, not looking back to Egypt, but looking back to the Lord Jesus Christ. Could they keep those days unto the Lord? Sure.
Somebody else, a Gentile or maybe a Jew, who had more understanding relative to the subject, could they not (refrain from keeping) keep those days unto the Lord? Sure. Could Jews and Gentiles at that period of time get involved in doubtful disputations over that question? Yes, they could. And God is exhorting them to use consideration and deference for each other. “He that regards the day, regardeth it unto the Lord. And he that regardeth not the day to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks. And he that eateth not to the Lord, he eateth not and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself and no man dieth to himself. Whether we live, we live unto the Lord, whether we die, we die unto the Lord. Whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died and rose and revived that He might be Lord both of the dead and the living. Well why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at naught thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give an account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another anymore.”
I referred to Matthew 7. “Judge not that you be not judged.” The passage goes on. “Judge not.” It is interesting. I think this is probably the most commonly known portion of scripture in the Bible. I’m not sure of that, but it seems to me like it is. It seems like everybody knows that verse. Not very many of them realize that it’s not a verse. That’s not even the sentence. That’s the first two words of the sentence. “Thou hypocrite… (Mat.7:5). “Judge not”(Mat 7:1) is written to what kind of people? Hypocrites. If you are a hypocrite, don’t judge. But that’s not the end of the exhortation. The exhortation goes on to say, first get the problem cleaned up in your own life, “the beam out of your own eye”. And then you can do what? That’s right. Judge. Then you can judge. Then you can take the mote out of your brother’s eye. It’s the same kind of thing you do if you go back to 1 Samuel 16:7 and say that because God doesn’t see as man sees and looks unto the heart, therefore, it doesn’t make any difference what you look like on the outside. You can do the same thing with Mat.7, “Judge not that you be not judged.”
Wait a minute. If you read the rest of the context, it says first get your own life cleaned up and then you can judge. John 7:24. “Judge not after appearance.” Again only part of a thought. The rest of the thought is what? “..judge righteous judgment.” In Romans 2:3, Paul indicts Jews, primarily those who are judging another and doing the same thing. Don’t do that. So, again it’s important that we let God speak to the subject of judging. So we judge. We are supposed to judge. “He that is spiritual judgeth all things yet he himself is judged of no man” (1 Cor. 2:15). In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul chides the church of Corinth because they can’t judge the smallest matters. “And don’t you know that you are going to judge angels?” You’ve got problems between you and you can’t even get those settled. Christians are supposed to judge. But in the areas that Paul is talking about, again the expression here, “let us not therefore judge one another anymore,” is only part of a sentence. “But judge this rather that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. I know and am persuaded, (verse 14) that there is nothing unclean of itself. But him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”
What’s Paul saying? There’s nothing unclean unless you think it’s unclean. It’s interesting. I looked up that word “nothing”, and if you use the Strong’s concordance, its number is 3762 and the definition is “None”, plus “of these things.” None of these things is unclean of itself. What things? Things you’ve been talking about. What’s he been talking about? All right, days and meats. None of these things are unclean of themselves. But to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
He will go on to develop the thought that if a brother does something that he believes is a sin against God, then he has violated his conscience. Now then, if you can educate his conscience till he comes to the place that he has understanding of the liberty he has in Christ, and by the way, none of us have any liberty in Christ to serve flesh. I don’t know where we ever get the idea that we have liberty in Christ to do that. That isn’t the liberty that any of us have, as Paul says in Galatians. You have been called unto the liberty only use not liberty for what? “An occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Gal 5:13). You’ve been called unto liberty but don’t use that as an occasion to the flesh. Nowhere do we get liberty to pamper our flesh, to cater to our flesh, to adorn our flesh. We just don’t get from God spiritual liberty to do any of those things.
Verse 15. “But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now, walkest thou not charitably.” All right. I’m here. You’re there, let’s say. You know that meats are fine. It makes no difference. Even if it were a question of what kind of meat, you know that it makes no difference what kind of meat. Paul is saying don’t put a brother who doesn’t have that knowledge and who isn’t as strong as you are, in a position where he has to compromise his conscience. “For if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of. For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
Righteousness, peace, and joy are in the Holy Ghost. What is righteousness? Right living. It deals with practical aspects of life. Are we to judge those things that are righteous in contrast to those things that are unrighteous? Of course we are. Can we judge those things that are of peace and make for peace and joy? Of course we can. “For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God and approval of men.” What things? “Righteousness, peace and joy”. “If in these things you serve Christ,” and we know how we serve Christ in those things as we make application of Biblical principles to contemporary society. “If in these things we serve Christ, it is acceptable to God and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace and the things with which one may edify another.”
Again, that’s not an exhortation to not deal with unrighteousness. Verse 20: “For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure.” All things, all of the things we’re talking about. “But it is evil for that man who eateth with offense.” All meat’s pure. But if a brother eats with offense, then to him it’s evil. “It is good neither to eat flesh nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth or is offended, or is made weak.”
If you are strong, then you are going to give up the liberty you have in these areas rather than cause your brother to offend. You’re not going to insist, “That’s my right. I understand it, I have liberty to do it and I’m going to do it.” If you think that’s what Romans 14 is saying, you missed the whole point.
“It is good neither to eat flesh nor drink wine nor anything whereby thy brother stumbles or is offended, or is made weak. Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemmeth not himself in the thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned, (or condemned) if ye eat, because ye eat not of faith for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not Himself, but as it is written. The reproaches of them that reproach thee fell on me. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning.”
So again, Romans 14 is written to the strong. It in no way is condemning judging unrighteousness nor is it in any way saying that everything is pure, or that everything without qualification is clean of itself or not unclean of itself.
Now let’s look at 1 Corinthians 8. And we see the same pattern in 1 Corinthians 8. Verse 1: “Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity (or love) edifieth.” “If any man thinketh that he knoweth anything he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of God. As concerning therefore eating of those things which are offered into sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods many and lords many), but to us there is but one God, the Father of whom are all things and we in him: and one Lord Jesus Christ by whom are all things and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge. For some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.” Everybody doesn’t realize that there’s just one God. They’re actually eating it as something offered to the idol (as though he were God). Verse 8 “But meat commendeth us not to God, for neither if we eat are we better, neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.” In other words, God doesn’t care. It’s a mute question, whether we eat or don’t eat meat. “But take heed by any means this liberty of yours has become a stumbling block to them that are weak.”
Paul’s going to go down the same line in 1 Corinthians 8, as he did in Romans 14 and 15. The liberty that you have be careful that you don’t become a stumbling block or a cause for someone else to sin. “For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols.” If I understand what’s going on here, apparently there were sacrifices brought to the temple for idol worship. They probably were offered to the idol and the priest of the particular idol, I gather, got them as their own and then they had to dispose of them some way. They couldn’t eat them all and so they could sell them and make some money on it. And apparently they served it in the temple of the idol, like a restaurant. Paul is saying, sure we know the idol is nothing, and we know the meat’s good and we know there’s just one God, but be careful, “take heed”, (verse 9) because the fact that you know that truth, may cause somebody else to stumble. “For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.” (1 Co 8:10-12)
In other words, I believe there are many things in life that are that way. Maybe they of themselves with the knowledge that one has or spiritual maturity, may not be wrong of themselves. But for us to exercise that liberty may jeopardize somebody else because they don’t have the knowledge, or the strength, as the case may be. And that becomes a sin. I believe there are many things in our society that maybe we don’t do, or some things anyway, that we don’t do, primarily because it hurts our testimony, not necessarily because it’s a sin in the eyes of God, per se. As we’ve already talked, whether you wear a flat top or don’t wear a flat top, as far as a man is concerned, that doesn’t make any difference. God has not indicated, to my knowledge, how long or short a man’s hair should be other than it shouldn’t be long. But God has told me not to be conformed to the world and told you not to be conformed to the world. And there are ways in which we could conform in dress and grooming that could cause someone not to recognize the fact or would confuse, you might say, our testimony as a Christian walking separate from the world.
You might say, the secondary problem becomes the sin question. In this case, the secondary problem or the sin question isn’t so much eating the meat or not eating the meat, it is about the effect that you’re eating the meat is going to have on your brother. The same can be said for the drinking of wine. The secondary problem sometimes becomes the primary problem or the area of the sin question. What does it do to your Christian testimony in some cases? Or what effect will it have on a weaker brother in other cases? That’s the expression here. When you sin so against a brother and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. It becomes a sin to eat the meat, not because there’s anything wrong with the meat but because you sin against Christ. “Wherefore,” Paul says, “that if meat makes my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth lest I make my brother to offend.” I’ll give it up. In contrast to saying that’s the liberty I have— “I’m going to do it,” Paul said, “I’ll give it up.”
Now 1 Corinthians 10 very quickly and I’ll close. Verse 23: “All things are lawful for me. But all things are not expedient.” Again we have to let the “all things” be qualified by scripture. “All things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” Verse 24. “Let no man seek his own, but every man another wealth. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles.” I assume we’re talking about the marketplace now (not an idol’s temple), “That eat, asking no question for conscience sake. For the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. If any of them which believe not,” an unbeliever, “bid you to a feast and ye be disposed to go, whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no questions , for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not, for his sake that showed it and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Consciences, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that which I give thanks. Whether therefore you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles nor the church of God.”
Again, I believe there are aspects of this that have its roots in the problems that were part of the transition from Judaism to church truth. Again what’s the situation? You go to the marketplace. You buy meat. Maybe it was offered that morning in sacrifice to idols. If you want to buy the meat, buy it. Don’t ask any questions. Be thankful for it. If an unbeliever bids you to a feast and you want to go, go. If he doesn’t tell you it’s offered to idols, don’t ask any questions. But if he tells you it’s offered to idols, don’t eat. Don’t eat.
There’s a similarity that many of us face, maybe particularly those in business. I did, when I was in business. Often times, people around the 22nd, 21st, 20th of December, would give me something as a “Christmas Gift,” and usually I would tell them, “I don’t celebrate Christmas. I don’t give gifts. I don’t take gifts. I appreciate the thought, but thank you, I can’t take it.” Well, in most cases they immediately let me know what was really their concern: they appreciated my business for the year, they wanted me to continue for the next year, they wanted to give it to me as a token of appreciation, and they said that. “Look, forget it’s a Christmas gift. I don’t care anything about Christmas anyway. We appreciate your patronage, and we hope you do business for this next year, and just take it as a gift from us.” And then usually the next year they would just give it to me. They said, “Hey, there’s something in the truck for you. Thanks for your patronage this year,” or something like that. I would take it on that basis because I’d made my point. I don’t celebrate or don’t eat things or don’t accept things offered to the idol Christmas. I don’t do that. Fine. If they are going to give it to me because it’s a New Year’s present or because it’s a token of appreciation, I’ll take it. No problem. I’ve made the point. My conscience is clear and his conscience is clear. He can’t come back later and say, “Well, he took that as a Christmas gift. What’s this I hear he doesn’t celebrate Christmas? He never told me he doesn’t celebrate Christmas. It seems like he doesn’t celebrate Christmas when he’s giving, but he celebrates it when he’s taking.” No, they couldn’t say that.
Question: “Robert, should we clarify conscience?”
Here again in verse 29: “Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other.” You defile his conscience in the process. But “why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?” In one sense your liberty is not, but your concern for his conscience prevents you from doing it. Again, the point here is that in no way is this a passage of scripture that can be used to justify my doing something that I may have liberty to do regardless of the effect it has on other people. It really says if it’s going to cause someone else to fall or be a problem to somebody else, don’t do it. Now then, I’m sure that we can’t go so far, and I’m not suggesting that we go so far, that if something doesn’t please or satisfy everybody, then we can’t do it. We have to again come back to God’s word and recognize what is transitional and what isn’t, where we’re drawing from principles and where we are making a direct application.
I believe that there is an application of the principle found in Romans 14. For example, up in Nova Scotia, Brother Wicks normally takes those who come, fishing. And everybody looks forward to going fishing. But because the community is primarily Anglican and because of their observance of “the Sabbath” and Sabbath means Sunday in their mind, Brother Wicks makes it a policy not to take us fishing on Sunday. He knows that one day is not different than another, but he doesn’t want to put his testimony in a position where people who don’t have that knowledge will say, “Boy, I don’t see how they can be Christians. They don’t even observe the Sabbath.” They don’t really observe the Sabbath. They don’t recognize that Christ is our Sabbath, but that’s not the problem.
I believe that’s an application that can be made of the principals of Romans 14 that is a valid application. In no place, in no way can you use anything in Romans 14, to support a misuse for instance of 1Samuel 16:7 that God looks on the heart, man looks on the outward appearance, therefore, it doesn’t make any difference what you look like on the outside. Romans 14 doesn’t support the conviction that we don’t have a right to evaluate and to judge what is of righteousness in contrast to that which is of unrighteousness. And nothing unclean of itself has to be limited to the parameters of the context.
Romans 14 is often thrown up by those who would like to exercise liberty that God doesn’t give, liberty to cater to our flesh. And it’s amazing to me how the religious world in which we live completely disregards what God has said relevant to the question of our outward appearance, our testimony, put it that way, our testimony by our life. I read for the first time (I ran into this somewhere in my travels), “25 Reasons Why the Bible is the Word of God” by Jack Langford. But he makes a statement in his 5th reason, “The Bible has never been embarrassed by such test”, referring to objective challenges. “It suffers most by those who claim allegiance to it but refuse to walk in its precepts.” And that’s the truth. The Bible suffers most from those who profess to believe it and refuse to walk in its precepts.
Most of you can’t see this, but this is a picture of Tammy and Jim Baker… Under the margin it says, “Tammy and Jim Baker on camera, cute little couple people felt good about watching.” I happened to have seen them on occasions on television, but this particular picture is typical of what I’ve seen of her. Tammy has hair that might reach her ears, and earrings that almost reach her shoulders and a necklace that I don’t know what it is, but it’s a great big thing that hangs around her, and bracelets and rings on both fingers, and eyes painted very dark (looks like he beat her up the night before maybe), and lips painted very red. And she stands alongside her husband and talks and they dialogue back and forth. He’s a very normal preacher-looking fellow.
What does that do? Those women who are Christians and who watch them may object, or some may object, to the fact that she overdresses or that she overdoes the makeup or the jewelry a little bit. But he’s a fine down-to-earth sort of fellow, and so what are they doing? They are catering to both. You only can draw from that what many have drawn. What’s on the outside doesn’t make a difference. She’s more made up and adorned then virtually any that I’ve seen, what little bit I’ve looked at television of secular entertainers. And I’ve noticed that they are much more made up and much more adorned than even the secular entertainers, to the point where it’s cheap and shoddy. And yet God says some things about the subject. God says some things about the length of her hair. Does she not know anything about it? God says some things about the adorning (what it’s not to be) that she displays in a most elaborate way. Does she not know anything about it? And yet she stands before thousands of professing Christians, hundreds of thousands. And their take (this particular article goes into their take), they make millions of dollars a year. His receipts exceed a hundred million a year, the article says, in income that’s taken from professing Christians. But nobody stops, apparently, to compare what they are doing, their walk, their testimony, the light that they supposedly have with what God’s word says. We are told to, “Prove all things. Hold fast that which is good.” “Mark them which walk as ye have us for example.” May God help us not allow anybody to distort God’s Word and to convince us that it’s saying something that it’s not saying, or it’s not saying something that it is saying.
Again, part of the reason for going over this is I believe that if an inaccuracy or lie or misrepresentation is repeated often enough, pretty soon somebody begins to believe it.
Robert A. Grove