Los Alamos Church of Christ

Let the Word Dwell

#19 Romans 14:8

Live and Let Die

 

This morning we come to #19 in the 51 verse challenge.

 

#19 Romans 14:8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's.

 

Romans 14:8 would probably not make any other theologian’s list of the top 51 verses in the New Testament.  There are so many big verses in the New Testament I’m not sure my #19 is a big verse.  Yet, I suspect Romans 14:8 may be the point of the whole book of Romans. 

 

In Rome, when Paul wrote this verse to the church there, the Roman Christians were struggling with how to get along.  There were Jewish Christians with a couple thousand years of heritage… all the way back to Abraham.  Then there were Gentile Christians who were newcomers to YWHW.  Yet they also had thousands of years of pagan heritage.  These two radically different groups of people, who had been at odds for centuries, were attempting to get along together at church; in community; in fellowship…  It was hard.

 

This tension in the church at Rome, when Paul writes Romans, came down to a precipitating issue.  Often times when groups struggle, one thing becomes the focal point of their differences.  For the Christians in Rome it was… meat.

 

Since Moses, the Jews followed Kosher dietary laws.  They were not allowed to eat pork, or scavenger fish or a whole list of other meats.  The Jewish Christians in Rome in the time of Paul were still concerned with being kosher.  It was part of their heritage before YWHW.

 

On the other hand the Gentiles had their own heritage with meat.  In those days, meat was not as common as it is for us.  Most of the time meat was involved in celebrations.  Meat was mostly reserved for religious events.  In the pagan world, a lot of the meat was eaten at the temples.  Meat was something they ate in worship of a pagan god.  To a pagan, in Rome, at this time, meat would have been closely associated with worship of the gods.  Their heritage was meat = idol worship.

 

So, there was this baggage associated with eating meat, both for the Jews and for the pagans.  Both groups brought this baggage into their relationship at church.  Jews wanted only Kosher.  Gentiles associated meat with idol worship.  There was lots of controversy over whether a devout Christian should eat meat at all.

 

But on the other hand, it was stupid not to eat any meat.  God did away with the Jewish dietary law.  Kosher was nailed to the cross.   The pagan idols were manmade things.  They were nothing.  There was no compelling reason why a Christian shouldn’t eat whatever meat was available.

 

So, there was this tension within the church. Some said, “Meat doesn’t matter.  Eat whatever.”   Others said, “No… God told us for thousands of years not to eat pork!’  Others said… “We can’t eat meat.  Meat is idol worship.” 

 

This controversy doesn’t seem important to us.  It seems kind of silly.  It seems kind of sad.  “Seriously, you think that is the point of Romans?”  But it was the kind of issue that could destroy the community of the church.  It was discouraging. It was divisive.  It was a problem. 

 

So, Paul, after 13 chapters, of what I call, solid theology, about how both Jew and Gentiles experience…

--Justification – both Jew and Greek are declared not guilty.

--Reconciliation – They are both, together in the family of God, to be called sons of God.

--No Condemnation – There is no guilt, or shame for each other.

--New Creation – All are going to share together the remodeled earth and drive 57s with the top down.

--Restoration –Both Jew and Greek are being restored to be the perfect version of themselves begun in this life and fulfilled in the next. 

--Altar Living – Both groups are called to live on the Altar as living sacrifices in compassion for each other.

 

After showing them all the overlook of God’s mercies, then appealing to them to worship on the altar… together, Paul moves to the issue of meat.  Which, could be, the point of Romans; at least it is a significant point.

 

=======

 

Let’s do our memory work before moving on with the theology of Romans 14:8.

 

#19 Romans 14:8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's.

 

=======

 

Romans 14:8 teaches the “Live and Let Die” Principle.  The “Live and Let Die” principle has two parts.

 

--In Christ I am free to worship any way I want.  There is freedom in Christ to live on the altar anyway God calls me.

 --In Christ I am free to abstain from whatever I want. There is freedom in Christ to die.

 

The living and dying of Romans 14:8 is a metaphor for:

--exercising freedom = living

--abstaining = dying. 

So the “Live and Let Die” principle says I have the right to exercise my freedom or I have the right to deny myself freedom.  If we live we do it to the Lord; we worship in freedom.  If I die I do it to the Lord. I deny myself for the Lord. 

 

“What?  Say that again…  That can’t be right.  Those two principles would lead to chaos and confusion and all kinds of disharmony. If I do whatever I want and you are doing whatever you want and others are not doing anything at all… that is going to be the opposite of getting along.  If we did that it would be a disaster.”

 

That is correct.  So, we must place the “Live and Let Die” principle into Romans 14 as a whole.  Let me read this entire chapter… watching for 7 ways Paul says “AS LONG AS”…  I can am free to do what I want… as long as.  You are free to abstain from whatever… as long as.  Listen for “As Long As” while I read this chapter.

 

=======

 

ESV Romans 14:1-2 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.  One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 

 

I am free in Christ to live or die…As long as…

 

1) There is no quarreling over opinions.

 

Paul has spent 13 chapters explaining solid theology.  Paul has laid out the doctrine. Bam, there is our doctrine. In other areas; in areas of opinion, or personal preference, or debatable things, peripherals, there must not be bickering.  In areas outside of solid doctrine there is freedom to live or freedom to die, as along as, we don’t bicker. 

 

We are free as long as we don’t nag each over opinions. 

 

ESV Romans 14:3-4 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.  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 upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 

 

I am free in Christ to live or die…As long as…

 

2) There is no despising or passing judgment.

 

We are free as long as we are not looking down on the other as a 2nd class Christian or calling the other a legalist… a liberal… or a gunky-head… We are free as long as there is no name calling.   

 

ESV Romans 14:5-6 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.  The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

 

Paul hasn’t changed the subject.  The meat would be connected to holy days.

 

I am free in Christ to live or die…As long as…

 

3) Everything is done to honor the Lord.

 

All we do in freedom or denial must be pleasing to the Lord.  This eliminates some things that would offend the Lord.  We are not free to offend our Lord with sinful stuff.  Our heart to heart with the Lord must be in honor. My action must honor God.

 

All my choices of worship are for his glory.  All my denials are for his glory.  Live or die for glory. 

 

ESV Romans 14:7-9 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.  If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's.  For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

 

I am free in Christ to live or die…As long as…

 

4) I stay connected in Christ.

 

We are in community with each other.  We both belong to the Lord, who is the Lord of those who live in freedom or die in denying.  Because he lives he is Lord of the free.  Because he died, he is Lord of the dead.  We must recognize our bond within the body of Christ.   You are my brother.  You are my sister; even when we disagree.  The living and dead are bound to the same Lord.  Splitting the church over opinions is a dangerous thing.

 

ESV Romans 14:10-12 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God."  So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

 

I am free in Christ to live or die…As long as…

 

5) I know I must give an account before God.

 

I am not accountable to you.  I will give an account to God for my heart.  You are accountable to God!  It is not my job to assign judgment to you.  You belong to your master.  It is not my job to critique you.  I belong to my master.  I will answer only to my master. 

 

ESV Romans 14:13-16 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.  I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.  For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.  So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.

 

I am free in Christ to live or die…As long as…

 

6) There is no stumbling block.

 

We must love each other.  I should not persuade you to violate what you think is wrong.  This is not to say, we have to always defer to the lowest common denominator.  We don’t have to please everyone.  We are called not to cause a brother or sister to violate what they think is wrong.  We should not attempt to persuade others to do more than they think is right or wrong. 

 

As long as… there is not stumbling block.

 

ESV Romans 14:17-23 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.  So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.  Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.  It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.  The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves.  But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

 

I am free in Christ to live or die…As long as…

 

7) I keep it to myself, when it doesn’t matter.

 

You don’t have to win every argument.  You don’t have to convince everyone you are right… in matters of opinion.  Leave it alone when it doesn’t matter.  Know what is important in the kingdom.   Sometimes just keep the rest to yourself.

 

=======

 

I believe the “Live and Let Die” principle applies to most everything we do outside of solid theology.  Let me take a silly example to run through our 7 As long as… principles.  Think about raising hands during worship.  Some of us raise hands in church, they live.  Others don’t raise hands, they die. 

 

You can raise hands or don’t raise hands… as long as…

1) There is no quarreling over opinions.

2) There is no despising or passing judgment.

3) Everything is done to honor of the Lord.

4) We stay connected in Christ.

5) I know I must give an account before God.

6) There is no stumbling block.

7) I keep it to myself.

 

As I said, you need to apply these principles to most of what we do.  Here is the reason I put Romans 14:8 on the list… We should apply the “Live and Let Die” principle to our interactions with other Christian groups in town.  We are in a position to lead a unity movement in our town.  I kind of think we are continuing to be called to interact with others to attain unity within Los Alamos.  In order to be successful in our leading of unity we must live and let die. 

 

It may not be a big a verse… but I think we should memorize it.   

 

#19 Romans 14:8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's.

 

Tim Stidham

May 17, 2015

Los Alamos Church of Christ