God has rescued us from sin and Satan in the work of Christ and has placed us in the church, the body of Christ. It is God who choses the members of the church. He chooses who will be members of Lakeview Baptist Church. What this means for me is simply this; God chooses who my friends will be. If I choose my friends, they will be much like me: same likes, same dislikes, same political views, same theological beliefs but in the church, God chooses my friends and the friends that God chooses for me might have different opinions from me, different ways of doing things, different politics, and different likes and dislikes.
That is why Paul tells us in Romans 12:16, “Be of the same mind one toward another.” And in Philippians 2:2 Paul commands the church to “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”
Being of the same mind does not mean that we will always agree about everything. We MUST agree on the major doctrines of the Bible, but we will disagree about smaller issues. That is why Romans chapter 14 teaches us how to love one another even when we disagree, otherwise, when we have disagreements in the church, we will sin against each other. We might even spit the church or quit attending. That is not the way of God, but is the way of the world.
Paul tells us that we are to welcome a weaker brother and not argue over opinions. Or in other words, we are to receive and not make third-level truths an issue.
In almost every church in the Bible consisted of a mixture of Jew and Gentile. They both brought their own traditions and opinions to the table. The Jew was very careful to obey as many Old Testament laws as they could, especially the laws about observing holy days and refraining from certain kinds of food, like meat that was not prepared properly and may have been left over from the previous day’s idol sacrifices at the pagan temples. Just because they were now Christians does not mean these traditions were easy to change immediately. His conscience still convicts him if he eats meat. So in Paul’s day, may Jewish Christians were still obeying many of the Jewish laws.
On the other hand, Gentile Christians had no law keeping traditions at all. There was no conscience toward these eating laws for the Gentile. So “weak” here does not mean their faith in Christ was weaker than the others. However, it meant that they still were troubled by their conscience about traditional matters—so their conscience was weak. I think we would put these traditions in the third-level category. You had some who were very strict (weak in faith) and those who were free (strong in faith). Yet, Paul says to welcome them and to not make the traditional baggage an issue.
This idea of hospitality and tolerance of third-level issues are important in the church. J.D. Crowley reminds us why Paul saw this as important. “When you’re splitting firewood, you try to hit the log right where there is already a gap. So Satan saw that there was a natural gap in the church between Jews and Gentiles, and that’s where he tried to split with his axe. Some who were strict about food laws started to think that they were better than the free group. They were judgmental toward those who ate any kind of meat and didn’t follow certain holy days. As far as those who had the freedom to eat meat, some of them thought they were the better Christians. After all, they were the ones following Christ who said that it was okay to eat everything. So they were tempted to look down on the Christians who had too many rules.”
The sad truth is that many churches have split and countless fruitful relationships have been destroyed over issues that should have never been divisive. Satan took aim and hit the gap and it easily split. Paul is telling us here to remove the gap.