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Fulton County Gospel News

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I Can Do Whatever I Want

By Barry O’Dell

“Only God can judge me” is a common sentiment in our world.  This phrase is typically used when one’s personal behavior is called into question.  Matthew 7:1 is often quoted by those who shoot off a personal deflection in response to a rebuke from someone who is offended by their behavior.  The biblical phrase “let the one without sin cast the first stone” is also used as a defensive mechanism by those who do not want their behavior called into question. 

Sadly, this non-judgmental, accept-anything, and condemn-nothing mindset has crept into the religious world.  This writer has noticed an abuse of one particular passage in the Bible when it comes to dealing with certain issues in the church – Romans 14.  “Romans 14 says you can’t judge me if I use instrumental music in worship.”  “Romans 14 says you shouldn’t judge a church for using praise teams or dramatic reenactments.”  “Romans 14 says that you should not judge a church that uses women for leading in the worship of the church.”  The lack of understanding and careless use of Romans 14 has caused many to believe, “I can do whatever I want and you can’t judge me!” 

First, it is understood that God is the Judge (Rom. 14:12).  No one who has ever read and believed the Bible would deny that fact!  We will be judged by the words of Christ (Jn. 12:48-50), not the opinions of men.  God as Judge is not the issue at hand.

Second, a question: With what is Romans 14 dealing?  Paul addresses two topics specifically.  He addresses the eating of meat in eight verses (2-3, 6, 15, 17, 20-21, 23).  He also addresses the observance of “a day” in two verses (5-6).  Paul was not writing about the worship of the church!  He was discussing matters of “doubtful disputations” (KJV, v. 1), or “disputes over doubtful things” (NKJ, v. 1).  That Paul was dealing with matters of personal preference based on one’s own understanding is further proven in verse 22: “Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God.”  To conflate the matters of certain food and setting aside a certain day for one’s own use to God with matters involving the worship of the church is a gross misuse of Romans 14. 

Third, that Paul is not dealing with matters of worship as mentioned above is further clarified in Romans 15:1-6.  He wrote, “That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6).  The church at Rome was to be in complete unity!  Paul used similar language when writing to other congregations (1 Cor. 1:10-13; Phil. 3:15-16).  Would permitting changes in the worship of the church at Rome have promoted unity?  Of course not!  However, would the behavior of individual Christians who were concerned about other Christian’s consciences have promoted congregational unity?  Of course it would!  Paul makes the point, “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself” (Rom. 14:7).  Our personal behavior can have an effect on other people and we must be aware of that!  That is exactly what Paul was discussing in verses 15 and 19: “But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died…Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and the things wherewith one may edify another.”

The misuse of Romans 14 to justify changes to the church and worship reminds us of what Peter wrote about those who misuse Scripture: “they that are unlearned and unstable wrest (twist), as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:16).  It seems that the current cultural trends of society have impacted the church in a negative way.  The attitude of “you can’t judge me” is alive and well within the minds of many.  The reality is, we are commanded to judge and it is to be “righteous judgment” (Jn. 7:24).  We need to be able to discern between what is good and evil (Heb. 5:14).  We are not permitted, nor are we capable of judging the hearts of others.  In that sense only God can judge, “for the Lord searcheth all hearts” (1 Chr. 28:9).  However, Jesus tells us, “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:20).  A false teacher and /or false ways can be known and there are many who misuse Romans 14 to push an agenda for change in the church.

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