Adjusting the Conscience (Part 10)

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We often think of “weak” and “strong” as though they are static and unchanging. Are they? Is change possible, either from strong to weak or from weak to strong?

Weakness, properly done, is nothing more than God’s Word applied to our lives. He says, “Put no other God’s before me.” We respond by refusing to involved in idol-worship. But what does it mean to be involved in idol-worship? There is a whole spectrum of positions.

The weakest brother can’t eat any meat, for what is sold in the market could be tainted.1 Another would eat meat so long as no one around was conscientious of tainted food. A third brother would go right into the temple and, ignoring the ceremony honoring the idol, eat with his friends and colleagues.

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Welcoming Your Brother (Part 9)

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Every believer must prayerfully study the Scripture and be fully persuaded in his mind about the issues of life. Along with this sense of persuasion comes a tendency to think that everyone should join him in it. You’ve studied the Bible and logically applied it. You’re sure of your conclusion. Of course others will come to the same conclusion. We must remind ourselves that God might not intend our brothers to have the same conviction He gave us. And we must examine how we ought to behave in light of that.

Romans 14 begins and ends with appeals to welcome. Romans 14:1, “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him.” “Welcome” (προσλαμβάνω, proslambano) is a call to companionship, friendship, even to “grant access to one’s heart.”1

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An Aside: Conscience and Heart Issues (Part 8)

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When we apply Scripture, we arrive at convictions and we obey God by living according to them. But then why the differences? Why would different believers apply Scripture differently? Why would some believers be unable, or “weak” to do things, while others, apparently, don’t apply those Scriptures, at least in that way?

If each Scripture passage has one meaning that doesn’t change based on the reader, should all readers apply it in the same way?

To answer these questions, it helps to know that all these convictions of conscience can also be thought of in terms of heart-issues. I’ll give a personal example. A few years ago, in one of our deacon meetings at church, one of our group didn’t take his hat off when we prayed together.

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Are We All Headed in the Same Direction? (Part 7)

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We have seen that the “weak” brother is sometimes right and the “strong” is sometimes right. Significantly, there are times when we ought to be weak—when God wants us to consider ourselves unable to do something. But is that issue-specific or believer-specific1?

“Issue-specific” means that the correct stance is specific to each issue. For example, for temple-idol-meat the correct stance is “weak,” and for market-idol-meat the correct stance is “strong (with exceptions).” Issue-specific means that every issue has a right answer that God desires for every believer.

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Persuasion in Your Mind (Part 6)

The previous 5 papers in this series, we have focused on the “weak” brother. If you are just now joining the series, it would be wise to start with Parts 1-5. We’ve seen him to be weak in the sense that he is not capable of doing some action without self-condemnation. We have seen his weakness as a gift of God and a conviction from God. We’ve seen Paul take his side and discuss issues in which he himself was unable to act. All of this means that the “weak” brother should not be thought of as immature or lacking in knowledge. For many readers, this is a new way of understanding the weak brother. So, having seen him anew in the light of Paul’s writing, what does this mean for us today?

Applications, Not Principles

We are talking about applications, not Bible principles. Principles are truths from God’s Word. No part of Scripture means something different to one person than another.1 But we apply Bible principles differently.

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Who Are the "Weak in Faith?" (Part 3)

Pompeii relief depicting a bull, ram, & boar prepared for sacrifice. (Project Gutenberg)

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Weakness is How Jesus Exercises Lordship.

Romans 14:4-13—The Servant and His Master

In Romans 14:4 Paul explains why the weak shouldn’t judge the strong: “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand”1 (ESV). Only the master may give orders and judge whether his servant is in good standing. By this analogy, the weak and strong are servants of a Master who chooses to give different orders to different servants. Some clean the house; some cook. Therefore, the cook gets orders that apply to him but not to the maid.

The common view of the weak brother implies that there is one correct set of orders about which the weak and strong have different levels of maturity, understanding, and confidence. But this passage says that neither servant can be sure that his brother has the same requirements for good standing as he himself does.

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Who Are the "Weak in Faith?" (Part 2)

Relief with sacrifice to Asklepios (c. AD 320)

Sometimes the Weak Brother is Right

In 1 Corinthians 8-10, Paul wrote about idol meat. The one who avoided idol meat had a weak conscience. Romans 14 refers to meat-avoiding weak believers as well. Both passages warn the eaters that their eating could cause stumbling and destruction. Both argue for love over liberty. Both deal with standing and falling. However, though these passages deal with similar issues, the Corinthians were struggling with much closer involvement with idols.

In 1 Corinthians 8:1-7, the strong are said to have knowledge. Paul used two words for knowledge. First, γνῶσις, “knowledge,” is found in 1 Corinthians 8:1,7,10,11. The same word as a verb, γινώσκω, “I know,” is found in 1 Corinthians 8:2,3. Second, εἴδω, “I see” or “I understand,” occurs in four verses in 1 Corinthians 8:1 (know), 2 (know), 4 (know), 10 (see). These two words are somewhat interchangeable1. Romans 14:14a uses εἴδω, “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus.” Romans 14 does not use γινώσκω.

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More Thoughts on Convictions, Complexities, and Drinking


I appreciate all of the spirit, and much of the substance, of Ed’s work on this topic yesterday. It’s just reality that even in historically total-abstaining circles, ministry leaders are going to be working with Christians who believe Scripture allows them to consume alcohol. That being the case, we should do more to help these believers exercise wisdom and restraint—or to recover, if they’ve stumbled into problems with drunkenness.

For those of us (including me) who are persuaded that total abstinence is the right course, there’s some temptation to think “Well, just don’t drink—and if you do, the consequences are your problem.” But where’s the ministry heart in that? I’m reminded of Matthew 12:20. Our Lord was not in the habit of breaking bruised reeds or quenching smoldering wicks. The spiritual thing to do is “restore … in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6:1), “encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thes. 5:14).

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