We are continuing on the same theme so that we might remember the importance of loving our brothers and sisters in the faith, but doing so in a very spacious context. Learning the extent of that context will be what enables us to live rightly with one another in close quarters.
“For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. 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. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. 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. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died” (Rom. 14:9-15).
Summary of the Text
Living and dying and everything in between is rendered unto the Lord (v. 8). And it was for this very purpose that Christ died, and rose again, so that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living (v. 9). The ramifications here are enormous. In light of the fact that Christ is Lord of both the dead and the living, do not judge your brother (v. 10). Judging him is equated with setting him at nothing (v. 10), and zeroing him out. This is identified by Paul as a bad idea, given that we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (v. 10). We know that we will all appear before Christ because of what Isaiah prophesied in a collation of Is. 49:18 and 45:23 (v. 11). Every knee will bow. Standing before the judgment seat of Christ is identified with each one of us giving an account of himself to God (v. 12). As we are doing so, nobody else will be craning their necks trying to hear how we are going to explain our peculiar beliefs about food allergies. Everybody will have something else on their mind. In the light of that coming judgment, our judgments of one another (on issues like this) should be set aside, with the exception of judging that we ought not to stumble one another (v. 13). Jesus Christ Himself persuaded Paul that nothing is inherently unclean, but Jesus also taught Paul that someone’s scruples about some things being unclean ought to be respected nonetheless (v. 14). If Christ died for a man, that man being your brother, then you are not to take your liberty concerning meat (or whatever) and destroy him with it (v. 15). To do so is to refuse to walk in charity (v. 15).
We have been considering some of our modern disputes and practices in the light of what Paul is teaching here. We have our debates over food, birth control, home education or day school, conventional medicine or alternative, home birthing, and so on. What should we think about these things? Again, Paul is not relativistic here. Read your Bible. Study it through. In his example of food, he is fully persuaded by Jesus Himself that no food is inherently unclean. Jesus taught him that, but Jesus also him that He is willing to let people be wrong, and that we should be willing to do the same. But remember—the person who must be right probably isn’t.
Revelation 20:11 talks about a great white throne judgment, one that is based on the book of life and the book of deeds. Matthew 25:32-33 addresses a judgment that will separate the sheep from the goats. This judgment separates those who are in Christ from those who are not in Christ. In order to stand in this judgment, it is not necessary to have anything covering you but the righteousness of another, the righteousness of Jesus. No one could stand otherwise.
But do not conclude from this that genuine Christians will not be judged in the particulars. You are accepted into life on the basis of the obedience of Jesus Christ. But what happens in this passage? Paul says that “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ,” and he further adds that “every one of us shall give an account of himself to God.” The central thing we will have to give an accounting for will be our petty judgments of our fellow believers—so, the Pauline advice would be, knock it off. The judgment with which you judge you shall be judged (Matt. 7:1-3). If each one of us remembered that each one of us will have to stand before God to give an accounting for how much we pestered the saints over insignificant issues, life in the body would be much improved. Just imagine yourself approaching the throne of Christ to explain to Him how Suzy over there used way too much eye liner.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10).
Lord of the Dead and the Living
If Jesus is the Lord of both the dead and the living, then this means that He is the absolute Lord of all history. Earthly kings rule over those who are alive, and once a man dies, he passes out of their jurisdiction and realm altogether. But Jesus died and rose to this end, for this purpose (v. 9). He died and rose so that He might be Lord (Paul does not say Savior here), and He died and rose so that He might be Lord of those who have died and those who are alive. His universal lordship is precisely the conclusion that Paul draws here. This makes Him Lord of history.
The section of Isaiah is a section that exalts in the Lord’s sovereignty over all the earth, and in His
intention to save the entire world. The promise that Paul quotes is Is. 45:23. The verse immediately before that says, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Is. 45:22). Paul ties this entire section together by introducing the quote with a phrase from Is. 49:18. God swears by Himself, and He swears that He will not forget Zion (v. 15). That would be impossible—He has graven them on the palms of His hands, which He did in a singularly bloody way (v. 16). God’s purposes are glorious.