Dr. Ed Young - Don't Major on the Minors
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You would think that we would spend our time and our thought and our energy on things that are most important to us. Things that are really of value. We wouldn't spend a lot of time on peripheral things; on passing things... We'd sort of major on majors and not major on minors. But so many of us tragically do major on minors, do we not? Our time, our energy, our emotion, our money, and that just all will pass away... And so as we look at this study of Romans, we come to the section here in Chapter Number 14 and about a half of Chapter 15. We see all of these Verses, and they deal with one thing. How we are to get along as Christians! Ha! Isn't that something?
Evidently, he spent all of these 36 Verses saying, "You Christians need to get along". He's come to the end. This is the, the ending, the dramatic ending. We say, "Oh, Paul, man-what a wonderful thing of doctrine, and, and application, and how to live the Christian life, and now..." Da, da-the drum roll, and BOOM! "You Christians have to get along with one another..." Boy. That must be very, very important. And we know it is already if we remember the high, priestly prayer of Jesus. Remember Jesus, prior to the Cross there in the Upper Room? He prayed this prayer? It's called the high priestly prayer. He said, "Father, I pray that these might be won". He prayed that brothers and sisters in Christ may be together in the church as He said, "I am One with You".
As Jesus is One with the Father, He prayed we might be one with one another. But it's a challenge, isn't it? Sure it is. It was a challenge in the early church. Look at the setting there. Look at the setting... Cultures meet. The church in Rome, people came from all over the world and they became Christians, and they worshipped together in that church. There were two groups, basically. There were the Jewish Christians; there were the Gentile Christians. The Gentile Christians were primarily the Greeks and the Romans. Then you have the Jewish Christians, and there two cultures meet, and two more radical cultures, you could not imagine. Think about it. The Jews were super religious, were they not? I mean, you woke up in the mor-you awakened in the morning.
There was a religious ritual you'd go through, the Shema at night; the doorpost; how you dressed; how you ate; what you talk; where you went; when you worship, all the high priestly days... The Jews were hyper-religious. Thousands of years, religion, religion, religion that determined everything about your life. The method of government was a theocracy. Hyper-religious people, Jews, came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. They were in the church. The Gentile Christians came in from a total pagan background. Oh, they worshipped their pagan god or goddess, but they were decadent. There was no sense of religious ritual, or, or formation in their lives, and now they meet in the church?
Heh, the Jewish Christian became followers of Jesus. The Gentile Christians followed... totally different cultures. Is there any wonder there were some problems? Hello! Different race, different background, different language, different habits, different understanding of right and wrong, and how you live in the world, and Paul addresses this, and essentially, let me tell you what he says. Follow me! And this is true for all of us today. He says, "In essentials, there is unity. In non-essentials, there is diversity. But in all things, there's love".
Now that's the formula, ladies and gentlemen, for the body of Christ, the church. In essentials, there is unity. What are the essentials? The basic doctrines Paul has been talking about. The Greek word is the Kerugma, that which was preached there to the world. What was that? The pre-existence of Christ, pre-time, pre-history; the virgin birth of Christ; the perfect life of Christ; the substitutionary atoning death of Christ; the bodily resurrection of Christ; the ascension of Christ, seated at the right hand of God; the coming again of Jesus Christ-new Heavens, new earth. These are basic essentials. Paul has walked us through them, we know from, from Chapter 1, all the way through here until we get to this part of Scripture. This is doctrinal beliefs. These are the essentials, the ABC's... and then there are essentials in morality.
In other words, there's a lifestyle that Christians live that's contrary to immorality. Years ago, when Billy Graham was on a crusade in Hollywood, a notorious con-artist, a notorious criminal, Mickey Cohen, came forward and professed Christ. Everybody said, "Oh, ho! My goodness! Mickey has become a Christian"? I mean, he represented the Mafia. He represented the, the height of corruption, but he's become a Christian! Everybody celebrated! Oh, it was a great thing! Months went by, and Mr. Graham talked to him, and Cohen said, Graham said, "How are you doing in your new life"? He said, "Well, things haven't changed very much". He said, "I started thinking. I said, you know, you have engineers who become Christians. They're still engineers. And you said you have postmen who become Christians. They're still postmen". He said, "I thought maybe that God needed a Christian crook"! No, no...
And so there are moral things. Paul has already dealt with some of these, if you remember. He said, "Here's part of the Commandments, adultery, lying, false witness". He, he lists all these things and said, "You know, this is not who you are". So there are absolutes, ladies and gentlemen, and where the Bible has spoken out on these moral questions, it, there, it's a closed issue. So in essential doctrinal beliefs, moral beliefs, there is unity in the body of Christ. There is no debate. But in non-essentials, there's diversity. In other words, all of those peripheral things that we have out there that's in sort of the gray areas that you have debates about in the church over, and over, and over again... In the doctrinal area, the non-essentials, I would qualify as not the real test of faith would be on views of the millennial. "I'm pre, I'm post, I'm ahhh, I'm dispensational more than you're dispensational..."
I mean-heh-this is not a test of faith for me. Let me tell you how Paul deals with it in our passage. I'm going to read 4 Verses. It's going to outline our study. What is Paul saying? Chapter 14 Verse 1. He said, "Now accept the one who is weak in faith". First of all, we are to accept one another. We're talking about non-essentials now. Not talking about absolutes. Not talking about doctrinal absolutes or moral absolutes. These are the non-essential areas. We're to accept one another. Number two, we're not to judge one another, Verse 4: "Who are you to judge the servant of another"? In other words, this "another" if they're, they're, Jesus is their Savior and Lord, He's in charge of them. We're not to be in the judgment business. We've already looked at that.
When you and I sit down on that seat, God says, "Get off that seat! You don't belong there! You're not God"! We're not to judge one another in the non-essential areas. And then look at Verse 13. It says therefore, we are not to judge one another anymore, but rather determine this-not to put an obstacle, or a stumbling block in a brother's way. We're not to trip up one another in these non-essentials. I'm not to trip you, and you're not to trip me. And then finally in Chapter 15, it says, Verse 2: "Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to the, to his edification". We're to edify. We're to build up one another.
So in all these areas of non-essentials, I'm going to break it down where you can understand it and see it. First of all, we're to accept one another. We're not to judge one another. We're not to trip one another up in these non-essentials. And finally, we're to edify. We're to build up. We're to build up one another. It's been more than 36 years ago when Jo Beth and I were in Israel. I've been there many times since, but this particular trip, uh, we'd made our way with a busload of church members up to Capernaum. "Capernum" as they pronounce it. Capernaum was the city of Jesus. He spent perhaps more time in His ministry in that area in Galilee than any other place. And so you go to Capernaum, you remember there's Simon Peter's, uh, mother-in-law's house. He spent a lot of time with his mother-in-law, and uh, also there, you have an interesting thing. You have the Ark of the Covenant, which is on wheels.
People ask, "How in the world could they move the Ark around through the wilderness"? Well, there it was on wheels. There was a demonstration of it, all the way back in antiquity. And then you have the synagogue right there in Capernaum where, where Jesus would have worshipped. And also, you have a wine press there that went back to, way, way before the day of Jesus where the grapes would have been gathered from the trees that are right there. They would be made into wine, and so that would be the wine that Jesus would have, would have drank there when He was in Capernaum from this particular wine press. By the way, you can't build a case for total abstinence in the Bible. You can try, but you'll be unsuccessful. Paul said a little wine is good for the stomach. It was a medicinal thing. They put wine-they would drink wine with their water, way watered down because they did not have a way to purify water. So it was a, a medical reason, which is a different cultural understanding of drinking in that day.
Now, so we were in Capernaum, and we were leaving on a bus, and a guy came out and stopped and came on the bus and said, "I want to give everybody on this bus a little cup of wine that came from the press, that came from the descendants of the grapes that Jesus would have participated, would have drank when He was here". Man, I thought everybody, you know, boy, what a, what a thing, what a moment to drink the wine made from the press, the same trees Jesus would have drunk when He was at Capernaum on this earth, and I was there in Israel-man, what a wond... But, he started on the bus and handed out some wine to different ones on the bus, and about that time, a woman stood up-a member of my church. She was President of the Temperance League of Columbia, South Carolina.
You have never heard anything like that in your life. I mean, she dangled us over the fires of Hell and threw matches on us! I mean, I mean, if you drank wine, you had any alcoholic bev... you were going straight to perdi... I mean, it was strong. And she went up and down the aisle, and I was sitting next to the back, back seat there with Jo Beth, and just listening... just the pastor of the church, I mean, you know... And so, some of 'em didn't take the wine. Most of 'em did. They, she sat down when she got through with her oration. And then they came back and handed the wine to Jo Beth and I. What do you think we did?
Now, see, this is the issue. This is the issue we face. How do we make decisions about the non-essentials here? This is big in a lot of church... in my home church, First Baptist Church of Laurel, Mississippi, L. G. Gates was a prophetic pastor there when I was a boy. He baptized me. He once went and had communion with the Presbyterians (true story) and they discovered that he'd had communion. They said, "Our pastor drank wine with the Presbyterians..." and they had a meeting of the deacons to see if they were going to throw him out of the church or not. True story from my childhood... and we just had somebody here, to show how we get confused here, from New England, who was a suite mate of Jo Beth when she was in college, and, and she's a member of a Presbyterian church there, and she asked about communion.
She said, "You know, in our church, we had a big, big dispute". I thought, "Well, over whether to use wine or grape juice..." She said, "Oh no. Over the bread". Said, "We voted to have gluten-free bread in our Presbyterian church in Darien, Connecticut". Didn't want to offend anybody... So there's all kind of sticky problems that come in the life of the church, and Paul has given us instructions here on the non-essentials. And he says simply, we are to accept one another. What was the issue here? Now the issue here was different than the church in Galatia. In Galatians, there was a doctrinal problem. What was it? Here was these Gentiles who became Christians, and there was a group of the Jews there that said, "Hey, you have to become a Jew. You have to be circumcised. We have to have all the celebration. The Law still stands..." and so there is a doctrinal decision which is an essential, and it was dealt with in, in the conference there in Acts 15 when it was decided, hey-this is not a necessary thing.
You don't have to become a Jew and go through all the ritual there in order to be a Christian. The issue was justification by faith in Jesus Christ alone, not justification plus, plus this, plus that. And so that was a serious essential, which was a doctrinal issue in the church at Galatia. Now, we've got a different situation in, for examp, oh, I Corinthians Chapter 8, and in our passage in Romans Chapter, uh, 15, 14. A different situation. The situation in, I believe, in Corinth, I Corinthians Chapter 8 was different. The issue there was, it's interesting. There, we see the Jews were the strong Christians, and the Gentiles were the weak Christians.
You see the opposite in Romans. You have the Jews, who were the weak Christians, and the Gentiles were the strong Christians. But these are non-essentials, remember? These are non-essentials. Uh, you've got a situation in Corinth. Evidently, Paul went out to get a good steak, and he went there to the Taste of Corinth, and he went up there and he ordered a steak, and right next door was, was the pagan temple, and they'd killed some animals there, and they'd served steak there, and it was delicious, the best steak in town. He's eating the steak, and some new Gentile Christians came in and looked in and said, "Oh, there's the Apostle Paul, our teacher about Christ. He's eating that steak that's been prayed over by pagan priests. Owww! Hoo, hoo"! And Paul saw that he was a stumbling block, a problem to new Chri... He said, "Look-it's no big deal to me. I don't think they're praying over it meant a thing in the world, but if it causes a problem to you, if it causes a problem to you, I won't participate. I'll go eat steak somewhere else. Somewhere..."
See, that's the issue that we have here. And so then you have the other situation, our passage we're dealing with. You have the Jews, were the weak ones, and the Gentiles were the strong ones. Some of the Jews have become vegetarians in Rome. Why? They were vegetarian because they couldn't find kosher meat. They didn't know food had been gone through the kosher process there in Rome, so they became total vegetarians. And you see, the weak were judging the strong, and the strong were looking down on the weak. You got the picture? These are non-essentials. Later on, Paul tells us the Kingdom of God is not what you eat, not what you drink, not what the days are involved in. It involves peace, and righteousness, and leadership of the Holy Spirit. These are non-essentials, and he deals with this in this passage.
So we're talking about we are to accept one another in our diversity in the area of non-essentials. And he says we're not to judge one another, he's got a long passage on judgment here. He says, "One person regards one day above another, in regard to another day or alike. Each person maybe fully convinced in his own mind..." Verse 6. "He who observes the day observes it for the Lord, and he who eats does it so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not for the Lord, he does not eat and give thanks to God". So we have the issue of being judgmental.
Way back in the Victorian era in London, you had two great preachers. You had Joseph Parker. You have Charles Spurgeon. Both of them pastor big churches. They became friends. They exchanged pulpits. But then there was a division that came, and Spurgeon understood that Joseph Parker was going to the theatre. So he got up and he castigated him for going to the theatre. How could he as a Christian go to the theatre? The godless theatre? And when Parker heard about it, he turned on Spurgeon, said, "How can Spurgeon say anything about me going to theatre, when he smoked cigars? He's a smoker"! So the press went to Spurgeon and said "Pastor, you smoke cigars"? He said, "I smoke cigars, but I smoke them to the glory of God"! And he said, "I don't smoke to excess". And the reporter said, "What is ex, excess"? He said, "No more than two at a time..." heh, heh, heh!
So there was a great-just... who was right? Parker? Spurgeon? Or both of them were wrong? What's the answer there? You see, that's part of the area-the judgmental areas that gets real, real cloudy for us here. So we're to accept one another in the non-essentials. We're not to judge one another in the non-essentials. And then you have the one that's gonna really, really kind of cause some pressure, it says. Also, it says, what to do-we're not to trip one another, to be a stumbling block in a brother's way. Verse 14: "I know and am convinced the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself, but to him who thinks anything is unclean, to him, it is unclean".
Then this is our Verse. "For the Kingdom of God..." Verse, Verse 17, "...is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy, and the Holy Spirit". And then jump down to Verse 21. "It is good not to eat meat, or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles". You see, there is a judgment, and it's a judgment according to work, a judgment on the basis of whether or not we have been mindful that we can lead a brother to stumble-to stumble. We can lead someone else to fall by our own liberty. So therefore, we have to be careful of what we eat, and what we do not eat, and what we drink, and what we do not drink, you see, we have a responsibility. That is an amoral absolute. There's a lot of relative areas that we have to be accountable one to another, and that's gigantic in our culture, gigantic in our culture.
Did Jo Beth or I taste that wine? Man, I wanted to... I did. I mean, Capernaum! Just a, man, Jesus, wine, that, of Jesus! We didn't. But that temperance lecture made me want to do it more than ever before! Why didn't we? Because I knew we were seated-here's the front of the bus-we're seated in chairs right here. This is the back seat of the bus. I looked right over across the aisle. There was a couple over there that I know they'd been grappling with alcohol in their own life, in their own marriage, and they'd struggled with it, and I knew if I would taste that-even a taste, I would have influence on them, and I didn't. I didn't... See, there's a private and a public kind of persona. We have to make sure that we represent the Lord Jesus Christ.
Last night in our Saturday night service, I spoke and a young man came out, one of our young deacons, and he said, "It's interesting that you spoke on the topic". He said, "Friday, I turned in my report. We'd been traveling-I turned in all my expense report," and said, "My supervisor said, 'You didn't turn everything in.'" He said, "Yes I did". Said, "No you didn't. You didn't put down anything for any drinks you had, all the time you've been here these three days". He said, "I didn't drink anything". He said, "Oh, come on, now! I know..." He said, "No, I'm a deacon in my church, our church". And the supervisor said, "Well, in that case, I know all the rest of your report is true..." and he just signed off on it immediately. Tell you something, folks: In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, there's diversity. The weak-you know, we shouldn't look down on the strong, and the strong, we shouldn't look down on the weak, but we all have to understand, we have a responsibility for our family, for our culture, and for how we then live.
That's what Paul is telling us. In essentials in the church, we're to have what? Boy, we lost it already! In essentials, we're to have unity! In non-essentials, we're to have diversity. We lost diversity! In non-essentials, we're to have diversity! In all things, we're to have love. You see, the watching world looks at all of us whether we like it or not. You know what they need to see, is what the Bible says: "Oh how they love one another"! See? We're not in the judgmental business. We're the accepting business. We're not to be a stumbling block to people who get in trouble in these non-essential areas. We're to be a witness to them as best we can, but in all situations, we're to be lovers of one another in the body of Christ. It is that contagious love that brings people over and over to the family of faith!