“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:10)
A Christian should not judge other Christians when it comes to areas of uncertainty, that is, areas not specifically covered by Scripture, because we all stand or fall by the grace of God (Rom. 14:4). Secondly, we are not to judge other believers because every one of us will stand one day before the Judgment Seat of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will all give an account of our own actions and will be called to answer for our own decisions; not those of another. With regard to personal convictions, we are not to judge other believers or attempt to change them, but rather to keep our own convictions between God and ourselves, ensuring that we are convinced in our own hearts. It is more important for us to be certain that our own walk is in accordance with what God wants us to do in such matters than to worry about trying to get everyone else to see things our way.
Every Knee Shall Bow
“For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” (Romans 14:11)
Paraphrasing Isaiah 45:23, the Apostle Paul cites the judgment of every person as an illustration of the believer’s judgment before the Lord. Every one will stand before God one day to be judged, but not all judgments are the same. When the Lord says that every knee shall bow, He means both the saved and the lost. The unsaved will stand before Jesus Christ in judgment at what is usually referred to as the “Great White Throne” Judgment (see Revelation 20:11-15) to be judged according to their works. The question of where they will spend eternity is not in view here since it is only the unsaved who will be present. The books of their lives will be opened (Rev. 20:12) alongside the Lamb’s Book of Life. The case against them will show that, not only have their own evil works and deeds condemned them, but the fact that their names are absent from the Book of Life will demonstrate that their fate has been duly sealed. Thus every person, regardless of their opinion of the Lord or even whether or not they personally believed in their earthly life that He existed, will “bow their knee” in subjection to Him in the Day of Judgment and answer for the life they lived.
The “Bema” Judgment
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
This parallel verse in 2 Corinthians also attests to the believer’s judgment at the Judgment Seat of Christ (The “Bema” seat, from the Greek term meaning a tribunal or judge’s bench). At this judgment, it is the works of the believer done after they were born again which will be evaluated. Our sins have already been judged in Christ and have been atoned for by His sacrificial death and resurrection on our behalf; our eternal destination has already been determined when we came to Him in faith. But the Bema Judgment is to determine what rewards we will be given in light of our service to the Lord. Speaking of this judgment, Paul had previously written to the Corinthians:
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)
Since the Foundation is Jesus Christ, we are obviously not speaking of Salvation being determined because it is only through Christ that we can be saved. We are looking at that which is built upon this Foundation; that which is done after Salvation. Additionally, we are specifically told that, even apart from anything built upon the Foundation, the man whose works are burned will still be saved; yet he shall suffer the loss of reward. It is our works done after we came to the Lord for which we will give account before God.
Placing A Stumblingblock
“Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” (Romans 14:13-14)
The tone now turns to how we should interact with believers of differing convictions and that is that, in love, we must not do anything which will disrupt their own peaceful walk with God. Paul places himself among those who are strong of faith (See verse 15:1) and agrees with what Peter testified to in Acts 10:15, that is, that God has declared all foods clean. The Lord permits those in Christ to eat whatever foods they choose, but if an individual believer feels something is wrong for him personally, then that food is, in fact, unclean for him. A believer from a Jewish background might have a difficult time eating pork after he has come to Christ and that’s okay. For him, it is wrong. His conscience might bother him, even though he knows that Christ permits believers to eat whatever they will. That is between him and God.
On the other side of the coin, it is wrong for another believer to not respect the convictions of the one who feels he should still follow Kosher dietary restrictions. If I were to invite the conscientious Jewish convert over for dinner and serve pork roast, I would not be acting in love. Even if I were to eat it in front of him while he ate something else, I would be guilty of putting up a stumblingblock for him to trip over. I am at liberty in Jesus Christ to eat pork roast, but I am to voluntarily lay that liberty aside when in the company of this other believer in the interest of Christian love and in the interest of peace and fellowship.
Finding Common Ground
”Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19)
All of these matters of observing holy days, dietary practices, and, may I say, even the style of music used in worship or what receptacle water used for baptism should come in (a cup or a tank or a river), are peripheral issues. This is not what the Kingdom of God consists of (v. 17). It is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit that is important. So often, we disregard the 99 things we agree with another believer about and focus on that 100th thing where we disagree. If it is a crucial doctrinal issue, then fine. But if it is something that falls into the category of peripheral, debatable matters then we are instructed to follow after the things which make for peace in our churches. And it is we who are of a stronger faith who are compelled to make accommodation for the weaker brothers and sisters who still might be wrestling with issues we never struggled with, or have resolved long ago. Romans 15:3 closes this section by stating:
“For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.” (Romans 15:3)
We must look to the Lord for our Example and choose to endure a little inconvenience for the sake of easing the concerns of other, less experienced Christians. This is right, proper, and pleasing to God. If Jesus could set aside His rightful privileges while on this earth, how can any of us be unwilling to do likewise?
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,