Accepting One Another

"Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ has accepted you to the glory of God." (Romans 15:7)

It is a marvelous thing to behold the manner in which the Word of God transcends the ages and still retains as much meaning and relevance as it did when it was first written so many, many years ago. It is indeed a timeless and eternal wonder that what Paul wrote to this church still can speak to us who are so far removed by the passage of the years.

In the church at Rome there existed a situation in which part of the members were Jews and part of the members were Gentiles. It is almost inconceivable to us moderns the radical difference that would exist among these two disparate groups. Those Jews who had acknowledged Jesus of Nazareth as their long awaited Messiah would have been raised under the Mosaic laws and ordinances. Their upbringing would have taught them the horrors of idolatry and the abominable worship that it was inevitably accompanied by. To them, the Ten commandments would have been ingrained in them from their youth. On the other hand, the Gentiles in their midst who had received Christ Jesus would have been reared in an atmosphere of licentiousness, revelry and debauchery that all too often marked the ancient pagan world of the day. There could not have been two more opposing backgrounds. It would be as if two worlds had come together on a collision course. Yet, the marvelous transforming grace of God had brought these two together and made them both one in Christ Jesus through the power of the gospel message. Even so, it was inevitable that there would still remain differences among them and that these differences would result in conflict and tension as they fellowshipped together.

One such instance is highlighted in the fourteenth chapter of this same letter to the Romans. There we find that friction was present between these two groups of believers over the eating of meats and the observance of particular days. Those of the Jews, in keeping with the Jewish dietary restrictions that prohibited the eating of certain kinds of meat, could not bring themselves to partake of that which the Gentiles were freely and happily eating. Also, the issue of whether the meat had been obtained from an animal that had been offered as a sacrifice to an idol entered into the equation as well. Many of the brethren could not in clear conscience eat such meat. Others to whom the idols were nothing gave God thanks and partook of the meat without any reservations whatsoever. Additionally, some of the Jewish brethren continued to observe the ceremonial Sabbath day. Others, notably the Gentiles, regarded it as pretty much the same as any other day.

It is in this context that Paul issues the divine directive:

"So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another...Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Wherefore accept one another, just as Christ also has accepted you to the glory of God". (Romans 14:19; 15:1,7).

As each of these believers would reflect upon this exhortation and begin to seriously consider all that it entailed, they would see how marvelously it was suited for their particular situation. After all, the very thing that these two groups of believers were having difficulty doing was accepting each otherís different views and convictions. As they would contemplate how the Lord Jesus had accepted them, their entire perspective towards their other brethren would change. Why? Because the key phrase that would leap out and grab hold of them would be, "as Christ has accepted you"!

How had Christ accepted them? Was it when they were all perfectly conformed to His image? Was it when He saw that they had attained to perfect knowledge of the Scriptures and correctly understood all of the mysteries of God? Was it when their faith was immovable and they had climbed the zenith of spirituality? Perhaps it had been when He had seen that they were no longer capable of sinning. Then and only then was He willing to receive them. Is this it? Of course not!

No, He had accepted them when they were still "dead in sins and transgressions", "captive slaves of the devil", "enslaved to various lusts and passions", guilty rebels, self-seekers who cared only for themselves. This is the condition in which He had found them. What incredible and marvelous grace this had been! How long He had borne with them while they had continued in their path of willfulness. How patient He had been. He had found them His enemies and accepted them in order to make them His friends!

Even after having received them as His own, He still had continued to faithfully lead them and guide them into all truth as He had promised to do by His Spirit. How many false and foolish notions of Him had He sent His faithful ministers to dispel by enlightening the darkness that remained in their minds. How often had He forgiven them and continued to bear with their many weaknesses and frailties. In short, all that was necessary for them to learn how to treat their brethren was to simply consider how the Lord Christ had dealt with each of them.

Dear friends, what was true for these early Roman believers still holds true for all of us today. If we wish to know how to conduct ourselves towards our brothers and sisters in the faith who may entertain some different convictions, we need look no further than the manner in which our Lord has dealt with us. How many dumb and foolish things have we done in which we thought we were honoring the Lord? I for one can certainly look back over my early days as a Christian and can literally cringe at some of the nonsense I did in attempting to do what I thought at the time was pleasing to God. No doubt many of you can say the same thing. Only later, after God in His patient longsuffering corrected our mistaken notions can we now see where we were wrong or misguided. Yet through it all, the Lord Christ was patient and longsuffering toward us. He did not cast us off and throw us out upon the ash heap. Instead, He saw what our intentions were and bore with us until in His mercy and faithfulness He corrected our views and further enlightened our understanding. If we would only keep this in our mind more often, we would see less division in our local assemblies and far more evidence of what Paul refers to as the kingdom of God which consists of "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit".

Mark well, we are not speaking of a wicked indifference towards sin or heresy in our midst. This is one of the single largest failings in todayís contemporary American church. Sin is not dealt with nor is it confronted. Rather it is simply ignored altogether under the guise of love and tolerance. The result has been to fill the churches with religious hypocrites who in actuality have nothing but disdain for the "narrow way that leads to life". Anyone under the delusion that somehow God is not serious about sin among His own people would do well to read the story of Achan as recorded in the book of Joshua, chapter 7.

There we find recorded the incident which occurred subsequent to Israelís victory over the fortress city of Jericho. God had expressly forbidden the Israelites to keep any of the goods of the city. All of it was to be put under the ban which meant that it was devoted to destruction and would be completely burned with fire. Only the silver, gold, bronze and iron were to be spared and these were to be passed through the fire first to be purified and then placed into the treasury of the Lord. Nothing was to be kept by any individual for personal use. Sadly, Achan, a man of the tribe of Judah disobeyed the Lordís command and took some of the goods of Jericho, namely a Babylonian garment and some silver and gold, and hid them in his tent thinking no one would see. Alas, for Israel Ė the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the good and the evil. Achanís sin was found out as Israel was inexplicably defeated in their very next battle. When Joshua went in to inquire of the Lord as to the reason for the stunning defeat, the words that God spoke to him must have stunned even this man of God.

"So the Lord said to Joshua, ĎGet up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst. Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ĎConsecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the Lord, the God of Israel, has said, ĎThere are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midstí." (Joshua 7:10-13).

These words must have shook Joshua to the very core of his being. Imagine being told by God not to even bother to pray! What a lesson is this for us! In essence, what the Lord was telling Joshua was to get the sin out of the camp if they expected His presence among them. He would not tolerate willful rebellion in their midst! His holy nature demanded holiness and obedience among those who would call themselves by His name. Could this incident not explain why so many of todayís churches are spiritually powerless before the enemy and no longer possess the living, vibrant presence of Christ in their midst? They are literally filled with modern day Achans who have hidden the things of Babylon in the tents of their heart and walk in willful rebellion to the commandments of the One whom they claim to be their King.

Note one other important thing about this incident before we move on. The entire body of people suffered for the sin of this one man. Achanís sin cost some of the Israelite warriors their lives in their battle against Ai. What one member in any local assembly does, affects all those members whether they realize it or not. This is because God deals with the local assembly as an organic unit. No, this does not mean that Christians will be responsible on the Day of Judgment for the sin of the "Achans" in their midst. Rather what it does mean is that Godís blessing or presence in the local assembly is dependent upon the conduct and demeanor of all of the members of that assembly. Known sin that is tolerated in any assembly will rob that assembly of the manifested presence of Christ in their midst as it grieves the Holy Spirit. This is why all the members of any local assembly have a vested interest in each otherís conduct. They are to exhort one another, encourage one another, admonish one another, reprove one another and if necessary, to rebuke one another so as to maintain a spirit of holiness in their midst. As the Scriptures clearly state, "Holiness befits Thy house O Lord" (Psalm 93:5).

In the event that some might be tempted to state that such was the arrangement under the old economy of things, but that God has changed the manner in which He deals with His people under the new order of things, then let them simply read the first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5, and observe Paulís dealing with the open sin among the Corinthian believers. This should lay to rest any of this foolish type of thinking.

Getting back to the main point at hand. No, we are not talking about an evil indifference toward sin. Rather, we are speaking of a tolerance and patience towards each other in regards to personal convictions that we may be holding. In addition, we are also speaking of making allowances for growth in grace and in knowledge among believers. Those Christians who are more mature in their faith need to pay close attention in this area. Their deep dealings with the Lord and their many experiences with Him have deeply impressed upon them the deceitfulness of their own hearts and have taught them to not only watch closely their conduct, but also to question even the various motives that lay behind their actions. In short, they are quick to suspect themselves. This is definitely a sign of grace. However, oftentimes they are therefore quick to suspect the motives of everyone who does anything for the Lord! Unfortunately, this leads them to become somewhat critical and cynical in their dealings with their fellow saints. In other words, they suspect the worst about everyone and are far too quick to cast aspersions on those whose convictions might differ from theirs. This is something that must be guarded carefully against. The reason this can pose such a problem is that oftentimes these mature Christians possess a keen sense of spiritual discernment. Quite frankly, sometimes it is hard to figure out where godly discernment ends and sinful suspicion takes over!

Additionally, those who have walked with Christ for any length of time can tell you that they have all at some time or the other embraced some foolish notions that they honestly thought were divine truths. It was only later in their Christian life that they discovered they could not have been more wrong in regards to their understanding of some of these doctrinal matters. Now the question they need to ask themselves is a simple one Ė how did Christ Jesus deal with them while they were gaining the correct understanding of some of these matters? If they truly understand His patience and longsuffering towards them and His willingness to further instruct them, then they will do the same towards their younger and less mature brothers and sisters in the faith. They will bend over backward to help them and patiently bear with them as their minds become enlarged as to understanding Divine truths. In other words, they will be willing to graciously overlook some of the erroneous views which their younger brethren mistakenly hold knowing that at one time they too held the same misguided notions. As Christ accepted them at that time, they will then accept their younger brethren as well and labor diligently in both prayer and instruction to help them come to a better and a correct understanding in the areas in which they oppose sound doctrine.

These younger and less mature saints, for their part, need to remember that youthful zeal and enthusiasm is no substitute for years of solid teaching and instruction at the feet of Christ. Hence, they will do well to accept the more mature saints as valued helpers and guides to aid them in their pilgrimage and not as "critical, fault-finders" who are out to heartlessly dissect their new-found "discoveries" of truth and thus pour cold water all over their excitement and joy at seeing some heretofore undiscovered portion of Godís Word.

In summary then let us all strive to better imitate our Lord Jesus and truly learn to value and esteem one another. Godís true saints are referred to as "His jewels" in the book of the prophet Malachi. A jewel is a thing of great worth, beauty, and value. If our Lord places such great worth upon His elect, surely we should learn to do likewise. Let us therefore learn to make allowances for one another considering that in Christ we are all one. Let us strive to see one another through His eyes, remembering His acceptance of us led Him to lay down His life for us. Ought we not to do the same?

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Pastor Dan

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