Live and Let Die
This morning, as we are moving backwards in Romans, we crawdad to chapter 14. Chapter 14, I believe, is the bottom line of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome. Here in chapter 14, we have the climax of Paul’s letter. Chapter 14 is the reason I want to do Romans backwards. If we get Romans 14 right all the rest of Romans falls into place. This is an important sermon in our learning the lessons from Romans! It is also an important lesson for our lives.
Let’s dig in…
The church in Rome had a problem… The Jews were expelled in 49 AD by the Roman Emperor Claudius. This included Christian Jewish. They were gone from Rome for about 5 years until Claudius was assassinated. These Jewish Christians then returned to Rome. In the meantime, the non-Jewish Christians in Rome had continued to keep the faith. Paul commends them because their faith was known around the world. The problem in the church in Rome was… How are they going to do church now that the Jewish Christians had returned?
The Jewish Christians or more accurately, these followers of Jesus; the Jewish Messiah still believed in their Jewish roots. These followers of the Messiah did not think of themselves as changing religions. We think of Judaism and Christianity as separate religions. But for these Jewish followers of their Messiah, Jesus was the extension of Judaism. He was the Jewish Messiah. They would have viewed their “Christian” religion as an extension of their old faith. They understood Jesus changed things, sure, but not everything. They were Jewish followers of Jesus!
But the ethnos, the Gentiles, the non-Jewish Christians in Rome simply wanted to be Christians. They had left their “old religions”; the pagan worship of the Roman Pantheon. Some may have been followers of Mithras or Osiris or some other religion. There were lots of religions in Rome in 57 AD. These Gentiles had rejected their previous religions; set them aside to follow Jesus. So, they had a hard time understanding why their Jewish brothers and sisters did not.
So, in Rome in 57 AD, as Paul is writing to the church, there was a problem. How were they, the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians going to fellowship? How could they share their faith? How could they even eat together? I believe this problem is why Paul writes what we call the letter of Romans.
The easy answer to the problem of how to fellowship amongst Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians would be have separate churches. Obviously, all they had to do was have Jewish-style churches and Gentile-style churches. They were already doing house churches. It wasn’t like they all went to the same building anyway.
There was somewhere between 5-7 houses hosting churches. We already discovered this back in chapter 16.
Romans 16:3-5 Greet Prisca and Aquila… Greet also the church in their house.
Aquilla and Priscilla were Jewish Christians. All they had to was host a church that was Jewish oriented. It could meet on Saturday. It could keep everything Kosher. They could have kept all the Jewish holiday with a Jesus-twist. They would have done church in Hebrew. They could have kept up the practice of circumcision. It would have been a Messianic Christian church.
Or…the Greeks could have done their own church. There could have been a Greeky kind of church. They would do church of Sunday; the Lord’s resurrection day. They would speak Greek in church. Sing their songs in Greek! I nice Greeky church in some wealthy Greek family’s home.
There could be a Latin church. Perhaps, they could have kept some of their old holidays like… Saturnalia with a Jesus-twist. Spoke in Latin. Done things the Rome way. They could have been happy doing Jesus with a Roman twist.
All the Christians in Rome could be happy doing their own thing. This would have been the easy solution. That is our solution, today in 2020. There are 30 something different Christian churches in Los Alamos.
Paul does not want this. Paul wants harmony. Paul wants real fellowship. Paul wants them to be in one accord. Paul wants them together with one voice!
Romans 15:5-7 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Paul rejects the easy answer. Paul rejects our answer. Paul wants real fellowship amongst the Christians in Rome. Paul has a different solution.
Paul jumps into the problem head on by bringing up two controversial issues.
Paul brings up the divisive issues of eating Kosher and Sabbaths.
1) To the Jewish Christians eating Kosher was one of their identity markers. What they ate was who they were. They could easily argue their food laws went all the way back to Noah. God commanded Noah to bring 7 pairs of clean animals and 1 pair of unclean. Kosher laws were important and transcended religion. Eating clean has always been pleasing to God!
Eating Kosher in Rome in 57 AD was hard. Most meat in Rome was offered to pagan idols. None of it would have been prepared properly. So, most Jews were vegetarians. It was a sign of who they were… “Good Jews, even Christians Jews, ate right!”
2) The same with the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath day is based in creation. God rested on the Sabbath. It had always been God’s day. Jesus observed the Sabbath day. “Good Jews, even Christians Jews, did the Sabbath!” Sabbath goes beyond Judaism!
On the other hand,
1) The Gentile Christians could have pointed to Peter. They had heard the story of Peter’s vision.
Acts 11:4-10 But Peter began and explained it to them in order: "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, 'Rise, Peter; kill and eat.' But I said, 'By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' But the voice answered a second time from heaven, 'What God has made clean, do not call common.' This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven.”
Peter rejects Kosher.
They knew the teachings of Jesus…
Mark 7:18-19 And Jesus said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" (Thus, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
Peter and Jesus said Kosher was not important.
2) Jesus was resurrected on Sunday. Jesus could have been raised on the Sabbath. But no, Jesus wants Sunday to be his day. The Sabbath was supplanted by Sunday.
How are they going to ever going to have fellowship? They can’t agree on when or what to eat? You can’t party without the when and the what. But to Paul, eating together was a mark of fellowship. But, how can they?
How do we fellowship when we hold opposing precious beliefs?
“Enough with the problems, already. Get on with it.” Tim.
Let’s listen to the beginning of Paul’s solution to the problem.
Romans 14:1-9 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. 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. 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. 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.
Paul’s first solution to church harmony is… “Live and Let Die”. You didn’t know that Paul said it before James Bond. “Live and Let Die” is the heart of harmony.
Let’s break down Paul’s solution.
--The Gentile Christians were to welcome back the Jewish Christian. Welcome here carries with it the idea of acceptance. It is the “welcome mat” inviting others into your home; house church. Accept the other into fellowship. Live and Let Die offers welcome. Offers hospitality in your home.
--But not to fuss over opinions. In matters of opinion; disputable stuff, there does not have to be agreement in order to fellowship. Live and Let Die does not have win arguments. If both sides insist on winning the arguments then harmony is blown up. 2c on my list of life principles is… “It is better to be wrong than alone.” If you have to win… expect to be lonely. You welcome each other but not to win a debate.
--Live and Let Die does not despise the other. Wow! It is easy to frame the one who disagrees with you as the enemy; as a bad guy; as full of horrible motives. “Anyone who disagrees with me is an idiot.” Fellowship demands respect for those who disagree.
Can we keep going? This is beginning to hurt a little.
--Live and Let Die knows the Master. You are not responsible for what I believe. I am not responsible for what you believe. We help each other, yes. We teach each other, yes. We discuss with each other, certainly. I attempt to convince you and you me, that’s fine. But in the final analysis… You are answerable to Jesus not me; and vice-versa. I know who my master is, so should you.
--All that leads up to... Live and Let Die honors the LORD. The Jewish Christian who only eats Kosher does it to honor Jesus. The one who thanks God for all kinds of food does it honor Jesus. Sabbath day or Sunday does so to give honor to the LORD. Those who “Live” exercise their freedom to honor the LORD. Those who “Die” honor the LORD in their denial. Live and die, for Paul, is living in freedom or dying in denial. Whether we choose to enjoy our freedoms in Christ or whether we choose to deny our freedoms in Christ, we do it for the LORD. Jesus makes both stand. Jesus honors our choice. Live or Die we belong to the LORD.
Let me share a personal example to help us get our heads around Live and Let Die. I don’t drink alcohol. It is part of my heritage. It is the way I was raised. I have chosen to die to alcohol; my choice. My death to the freedom of drinking is something I intend to do all my life.
Now let’s apply Live and Let Die to my choice.
--The strong, those who exercise freedom in drinking, should welcome me; accept me and my death.
--We can discuss my choice. I can point to all the horrible things that alcohol has caused. I will never become an alcoholic. The strong could point to Jesus turning water to wine. We could discuss. But if either of us have to win the argument, we violate the Live and Let Die principle.
--I am wrong if I despise the Strong by calling them drunkards or alcoholics or idiots. They are wrong if they frame me as a knucklehead or a party-pooper. We cannot frame the other as the bad guy.
--I leave you to your Master. You leave me to my Master. I please my Master by offering my death to Him. Neither of us have the right to accuse the other of not serving the LORD.
--My denial; my death honors the LORD. Their joy in freedom; their life should be given in honor of the LORD.
We live and let die!
The live and let die principle is just the first of several solutions Paul gives us in chapter 14 and 15 about dealing with fellowship in church. Over the next couple of sermons, we will explore Paul’s other solutions to division. This is a powerful start. Live and Let Die.
On the banner it falls under the… Be Respectful.
I promised to give you an assignment each week to take the sermon to the road.
Anyone done last week’s yet… Give some money. Just raise your hand. No details.
Here is the assignment for this week. Identify a “matter of opinion” you need to apply the Live and Let Die principle to. You may be on the die side or the live side. Work through the parts of this solution… Think about disagreements about stuff within this body.
--Live and Let Die offers welcome.
--Live and Let Die does not have win arguments
--Live and Let Die does not despise the other.
--Live and Let Die knows who’s the Master.
--Live and Let Die honors the LORD.
Let’s close by reading our last verse again…
Romans 14:9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
Los Alamos Church of Christ
February 2, 2019