The DEEP

Who

do you serve?

Romans 14:10–19 (ESV)

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Dietary laws and Sabbath practices are just the examples Paul uses to make a point. He wants us to apply this concept generally. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

We tend to think that modern Christians have put this problem behind us. Not so! We’re far worse in this respect than anything Paul saw. The issues are different, but the effect is the same. We think that folks have to agree with our doctrines to be Christians.

Think I’m kidding? How about, “salvation by faith alone”? The Bible says that salvation is by faith alone, but is knowing that doctrine essential for salvation? If so, then how was the thief on the cross saved?

This is strong stuff; we need to be careful here. There are many doctrines that are true, but not necessary unto salvation. We’re never going to fully understand heavenly things this side of eternity anyway.

So, let’s not be quick to declare something essential for salvation. The key phrase here is, “Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.” That almost seems too broad. What’s the rule?

There are other key passages—especially Romans 10:9—but this passage notes two essential things, “serves” and “Christ”. You have to serve, and the one you serve has to be Christ. “Serve” isn’t really doctrine; it’s just saying, “Get off the couch.” But errors of doctrine can mean you’re not serving Christ.

Serving Christ means serving the Lord of the universe. You must be accurate about who that is. The thief on the cross knew that.


So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. One of the essential ways we serve Christ is though the upbuilding of other Christians. This is deficient in many modern churches. We pursue converting unbelievers. We think about our own sanctification and have plans and goals for growing in Christ. We have Christian education programs.

But we are not intentional enough about encouraging one another to grow in Christ.


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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.