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Section 6 ­ Lesson Four

Accept One Another

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:7 Read Romans 15:5-7 Paul used Jesus Christ as his example for acceptance. We are to accept other Christians just as Jesus Christ accepted us--which raises a very basic question. How did Jesus Christ actually receive us? When we become Christians, Jesus Christ accepts us unconditionally. "It is by grace" we "have been saved, through faith." Salvation "is the gift of God" and we do not receive it "by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus Christ doesn't even ask us to clean up our act before He accepts us. Rather, He has said that He accepts us just as we are--our weaknesses and all. He tells us to come to Him and receive Him and He will clean up our act. This is what Paul meant after his great declaration that we're saved by grace through faith. Ephesians 2:10. Judging One Another: To sit in judgment on other Christians is a violation of Paul's exhortation to "accept one another." Interestingly, the apostle used these two concepts concurrently to make his point in his Roman letter. He wrote: "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters" (Romans 14:1). In this particular New Testament church some Christians were refusing to engage in certain legitimate activities. These problems arose out of their previous sinful associations with those activities. Others, however, were free from this very real, but unwarranted, guilt. In both the Roman and Corinthian churches, one of these activities involved eating meat that had been offered to idols. Paul, in his inimitable way, brought the problem into clear focus, particularly in his Corinthian letter. Read 1 Corinthians 8:4, 7-8 · How did Paul deal with this problem? First, he spoke to both the weak and the strong. Romans 14:3 We should not judge each other in areas that are not specified by God as sin. "Each one," said Paul, "should be fully convinced in his own mind" Romans 14:5. Second, after exhorting both the mature and immature Christians not to judge one another, Paul then laid a heavy responsibility on mature Christians--those who could eat meat offered to idols without a guilty conscience. If we are truly mature, we will be sensitive toward our brothers and sisters in Christ who are not as strong as we are. We will be careful to do nothing that would cause them to stumble and fall into sin. If these two attitudes are working concurrently in a local body of believers, unity

Section 6 ­ Lesson Four will inevitably emerge. Those who are weak will soon become strong, and those who are strong will become even more mature. Showing Partiality: Paul introduced showing partiality as a barrier too unity and acceptance of others in his letter to the Romans even before dealing with legalism. Romans 12:16. James called this sin "prejudice". He allowed no room for misinterpretation when he wrote, "As believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism" (James 2:1). James was addressing a particular problem involving the rich and the poor. When a man came into their assembly well dressed and obviously rich, the leaders immediately gave him the best seat. But when a poor man came in, dressed in shabby clothes, they ushered him to a seat less prominent. When you do this James asks "Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges of evil thoughts"? James 2:4. To make sure they really got his point, James spelled out the answer to his own questions in unequivocal terms: "If you show favoritism, you sin" (James 2:9). Showing Honor vs. Showing Favoritism: It's not wrong to honor others who are faithful to God with their material possessions--just as it is not wrong to honor Christians for being hospitable, sharing Christ with others, and serving the Lord in other ways. In terms of being generous, the apostle changed Joseph's name to Barnabas (which means son of encouragement)" in order to honor him for using his material possessions to serve the church in Jerusalem (Acts 4:36-37). This is about as public as honor can get. But this is far different than showing "favoritism". All Christians should be honored in various ways for their faithfulness. Prejudice, favoritism, and discrimination in the body of Christ rejects and alienates some Christians and accepts others. This violates the laws of God. Furthermore, this kind of behavior violates the very nature of the functioning body of Christ. We are all one. Every member is important. Practical Steps for Accepting One Another: Step 1: Make Sure You Really Understand What Paul Was Teaching in Romans 14. Paul was teaching that neither the weak or the strong are to judge one another. Second, the strong Christian is to be careful not to cause a weaker brother or sister to fall into sin. What Paul meant by making one stumble is to cause a fellow Christian to actually sin against himself and the Lord, not making them "feel bad" or uncomfortable with being confronted.

Section 6 ­ Lesson Four Step 2: Evaluate Your Own Attitudes and Actions to See If You're Accepting and Rejecting Others Based Upon Your Own Standards That You Have Set Up or Accepted Because of Your Own Weak Conscience. We must not set up for ourselves extrabiblical standards for ourselves and then make this a standard of behavior for the rest of the body of Christ. Step 3: Evaluate Your Attitude Toward Other Christians Concerning Prejudice and Favoritism. New Testament examples of this would be Peter and his vision from heaven. Cornelius in Acts 10:27-35. Action Steps: If you identify this as a sin in your life, first confess it, then identify the particular areas, and act upon who or what the Holy Spirit would lead you to make restitution to. Discuss: 1) Read Romans 14:1-15:1. In what areas of behavior do you consider yourself "stronger" brother or sister--one who feels comfortable with Christian liberty in those areas? 2) In what areas of behavior do you consider yourself a "weaker" believer? 3) What issues cause you to struggle with whether certain standards are biblical or merely cultural?

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