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Adiaphora

21/07/2017

Adiaphora

Text Romans 14:1.

Adiaphora!  Today I want to introduce you to a new word – one that you maybe haven’t heard before. Adiaphora. It’s not a biblical word – it’s a philosophical word – used to denote matters upon which we can agree to disagree. Secondary issues upon which we should never fall out with each other. Theologians use it too. To differentiate between two broad sets of issues.

  • Matters of saving importance. Paul lists these for us in 1 Cor 15:1-4.  These are the things upon which we MUST agree.  The inspiration and authority of the Bible, the sinfulness and ruin of man, the Persona and work of Christ, his death, burial and literal bodily resurrection from the dead, the need to receive the Gospel in order to be saved.  This is the gospel, the Good News. We find this same concise statement of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.
  • Matters not of saving importance. For example, why would we disagree with other believers over dress codes, bible versions, even whether Christians should drink alcohol.  Some Christians hold VERY strict views on the Lord’s Day.  Others will go to the other extreme, and just treat the Sabbath as any other day Whatever our practice is regarding the Sabbath day, we must live our own lives unto the Lord, knowing that we will answer before Him for ourselves, and not for others.

Now this is precisely what Paul is teaching us about in Romans 14.

 

  1. The Roman Dilemma.

Imagine again the situation at Rome. The Jews, including the Jewish Christians had been expelled from Rome, and while they were gone a new group of gentile converts had joined the church – it had become like a different church. Then back came the Jewish Christians – with all their traditions etc…  there was bound to be a conflict – despite the fact that both groups were Christians, all of them loved the same Lord, all confessed the same creed.  They just did things differently.

You can imagine the old traditional Jewish Christians … and the new incoming Gentiles… Looking at each other with bewilderment, concern and even  So Paul warns them.   14 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.

If someone comes in to your church welcome them, but not just to start a row with them about secondary issues.

 

  1. Two Examples of Pointless Disputes.

Paul uses two examples which must have been causing problems at Rome.

  1. Eating or not eating meatFor one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. This was a common matter of disagreement in the early church.  In the gentile world, all the meat was slaughtered in the pagan temple, and was sacrificed to false gods.  It was then sold in the butcher’s shops.  What would a Christian do?  Would he abstain from such meat altogether, and just eat vegetables, or whould he say, – ‘false gods are no gods at all, these sacrificial ceremonies are just superstitious nonsense, and of course I’m going to enjoy a sirloin steak, medium rare, with garlic butter and chips.  In Corinth the same problem persisted.  There were those who would eat meat, those who would not.  It’s worth turning to Paul’s words in 1st Corinthians 10:23-32  32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

The message is the same – whether you eat or not – don’t let it become an issue in the local assembly, – it’s not going to damage your eternal soul either way.  Let your conscience be your guide.

  1. Observing ‘daysOne person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.  You can appreciate the tension between the Jewish and Gentile Christians at Rome about this.  The Jews had a whole list of special Sabbaths etc.  2 Chronicles 2:4   Paul deals with this also in Colossians 2:15-17     In a modern sense, it’s a bit like ‘Christmas!’  Some Christians love it!  Others despise it, on the grounds that we are not specifically taught in the Scriptures to remember or celebrate the birth of Christ, just his death.

So, can we find some help here to discern what Christians should not enter into dispute over?  Let’s see…

 

  1. The Principles of Christian Liberty and Conscience.

There are some things we should agree to differ on.   How will we manage that?  How will we tread the fine line that lies between legalism and antinomianism?

  1. a) We are not to look down on others who disagree on minor issues. V3
  2. b) Remember that in the end they answer to God, not to you! V4
  3. c) Whatever we do, our first consideration is that we must all live to the glory and praise of God. V3 & 6
  4. d) We all belong to Christ! We will all one day be in heaven together and around his throne. We will be changed! We will all agree in heaven.  V7.
  5. e) Consider Christ. Once again Paul draws us back to the cross, as he always does. V9 Jesus’s death was to save us and bring us back into a living relationship with God through Him.  That’s our priority, that’s our message, that’s our focus.  Let’s not be distracted by adiaphora.

 

This whole section has at its heart the basic question of Christian liberty and freedom, and the restraints that we must exercise upon ourselves, for the sake of the Lord, other believers and the witness of the Gospel. Its principles are fundamental for Christian ethical behaviour. Let us summarise them in the words of 1 Cor. 8:9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak, and let us learn them well.

© Bob McEvoy.  July 2017

From → Bible Study, Romans

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