A Standard for Practices in the Church

I was asked an interesting question tonight: "Where do you draw the line on what activities the church should sponsor or promote?"

Below is a redacted article from Warren Wiersbe's Expository Outlines of the New Testament. The article is an interesting read, and the short answer to the question is found at the end:

Romans 14:1–15:7 deals with the problem of correct questionable things in the Christian life and what to do when sincere Christians disagree about personal practices. Paul recognizes that in each local church there are mature believers (“We that are strong,” 15:1) as well as immature (“him that is weak in faith,” 14:1), and that these two groups may disagree on how the Christian is to live.... Many Christians have the false notion that extreme legalism (observing days and diets) shows strong faith, but Paul states that just the opposite is true!

...Paul tells us how to face and solve these differences. He does not give us a list of rules; rather, he lays down six basic principles that can be applied by all Christians at all stages of growth. We can state these principles in the form of questions and test our own lives.

1. Am I Fully Convinced? (Romans 14:1-5)

Christians are not to act from mere emotion, but from settled inward convictions that are the result of diligent prayer and study of the Word.... The stronger Christian is not to despise the weaker one for his or her immaturity; neither is the weaker believer to judge his or her more mature brothers and sisters for their liberty. God has received both in Jesus Christ and we should receive each other. Our lives are to be directed by Him, not by people’s ideas or judgments. Mature Christians know why they behave as they do, and these convictions control their lives.

2. Am I Doing This Unto the Lord? (Rom. 14:6-9)

"I'm living my own life!" is a statement that no Christian ought to make, for we belong to the Lord, whether we live or die. He is the Lord, and we must live to please Him. So often the Christian who has questionable practices in his or her life cannot honestly say that these practices are done as “unto the Lord”; for in reality, they are practiced for selfish pleasure and not to honor the Lord....

3. Will It Stand the Test at the Judgment Seat? (Rom. 14:10-12)

We have no right to judge our brethren, for we will all have our works tested at the judgment seat of Christ... (2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Cor. 3:10ff). We do not have to give an account of our brother’s life, so we have no right to condemn him today....

4. Am I Causing Others to Stumble? (Rom. 14:13-21)

There is one thing we should judge: we should judge ourselves to see whether we are abusing our Christian liberty and making others stumble. Certainly nothing is unclean of itself, but some practices and habits are considered unclean by others. Therefore, if we deliberately do something that makes our brothers stumble, we’re not living according to the rule of love....

The Christian life is not a matter of eating or drinking (or any other practice), but one of righteousness and peace and joy, all of which come from the Spirit. Our aim should be not to please ourselves, but to build up (edify) other Christians in love. 1 Corinthians 10:23 states that all things are lawful for the believer (for we do not live under law), but not everything builds us up or helps to build up others....

5. Am I Doing This by Faith? (Rom. 14:22-23)

The Gk. word for “faith” in v. 22 means almost the same as “conviction,” for our convictions are born of faith in God’s Word. These two verses lay down the principle that the Christian life is between the believer and his Lord, and that the believer must always be sure he is right with the Lord.... The Christian who engages in practices with a doubtful mind is condemning himself and those practices by his very attitude....

No one would drink milk or water that possibly was contaminated; nor would we accept food that might possibly be poisoned. Yet many Christians carelessly engage in practices that even the world questions. They never face the fact that whatever is doubtful is not of faith, and therefore is sin.

6. Am I Pleasing Myself or Others? (Rom. 15:1-7)

The strong ought to bear the weaknesses of the immature Christians, and while doing this, seek to build them up in the faith.... Paul’s final conclusion in v. 7 is: receive one another, for Christ has received you. This will bring glory to God.

Local churches have the right to establish standards, but not beyond what the Word teaches. We must lovingly allow for differences among Christians and not use these differences as opportunities for division.