Apostolic Identity & Holiness Standards -Part 1

apostolic: of or relating to the Apostles of Jesus Christ.  What did the Apostles teach and practice?  

Romans 14:1-4 NLT - Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. 2 For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. 3 Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t.  And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.

In the ethnically and culturally diverse church at Rome, there were Christians who came with different family upbringings, religious backgrounds, and personal experiences.  The conscience of some would not permit them to do certain behaviors [in this case, eat certain foods] while others had no such restriction on their conscience.  In the case of the Jewish Christians, they grew up with strict dietary laws in the Hebrew Bible!  For some Romans, the possibility of eating the meat of animals sacrificed to false gods was too much of a reminder of their past idolatry.  It was probably a very emotional topic - for Jewish Christians to see their brothers and sisters “violating” the Old Testament dietary laws, and for Romans to see their brothers and sisters eat meat that may have been sacrificed to idols.  For those whose consciences didn’t convict them about such restrictions, they were being judged by the others and looked down on them for making a big “holiness” deal out of something that was not a moral matter.  Paul did not set one standard for all in Rome to obey nor did he rebuke one camp for being “too conservative” or “too liberal” in their outward lifestyle choices.  The apostolic standard was too follow your conscience on these “gray areas” of outward lifestyle choices and to respect the personal convictions of others. In my experience, this has been violated by dedicated Christians as much as any other doctrine.  We prefer everything as “one-size-fits-all” - black or white, right or wrong, Heaven or Hell.  We often want everyone in our group to conform to specific standards; however, the human tendency is to judge those we view as living too “loosely” and to mock those we view as living too “strictly.”  The root of both condemning the more liberal and mocking the more conservative is pride.  This is why Paul asks the rhetorical question, “Who are you…?”  Clearly we are not masters over the servants of God.  He is the Judge and Savior of all who are in Christ, not only those who agree with our outward standards of holiness or personal freedoms.

Do you tend to condemn those whose faith is genuine but who live with certain freedoms with which you personally disagree?  Do you tend to look down on those whose faith is genuine but who live with certain outward restrictions with which you disagree?  Do you tend to value your holiness standards or your Christian freedoms more than your fellow Christians?  Consider the apostles’ teaching on such matters:

Colossians 2:20-23 NLT - You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, 21 “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? 22 Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. 23 These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires. 

Galatians 5:13 NLT - For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.