J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

The Weaker and Stronger Brother Part 2 – Alcohol

Part One of this series can be found here and audio for this sermon can be found here.

3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.  4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Paul gives a command to the stronger brother and a command with an explanation to the weaker brother.  To the stronger brother, Paul commands them not to despise the weaker brother.  Paul wants to make sure that there is not a class system forming in Christianity.  The purpose of abolishing the food laws was to abolish the man-made class system.  People grow in the exercising of their faith, but they don’t get a seat closer to God just because they have stronger faith.  So if the stronger brother despises or looks down on the weaker brother, He is sinning and actually undoing what the abolishment of the food laws intended.

To the weaker brother, Paul commands them not to pass judgment on the stronger brother because God has welcomed the stronger brother.  Paul’s explanation to the weaker brother is this?  How dare you pass judgment on the stronger brother for eating?  The stronger is the servant of the his master, God.  God is the one who decides if His servant stands or falls, and God has upheld the stronger brother and has enabled him to stand.   Bottom line:  if the stronger brother despises the weaker brother, he sins.  If the weaker brother passes judgment on the stronger brother, he sins.

So how should affect us today?  Well, let’s understand a couple of things before we begin to make an application.  The argument between the stronger and weaker brother was about something that God said was not a sin that the weaker brother said was a sin.  They were not arguing about something in which God was silent.   This is not an argument about preference.  This is not an argument about the color of carpet or the style of music.  This not an argument about what you should wear to worship.  The argument between the stronger and weaker argument was about something that God had clearly said was not a sin.  The stronger brother is not sinning by eating and neither is the weaker brother sinning by not eating.  However, the weaker brother cannot tell the stronger brother he should not eat or pass judgment on him for not eating.  The stronger and weaker brothers are not classes or categories of Christians.  Paul just said that every servant is justified before his master and it is the master that upholds them.  No servant upholds himself.

It is not an insult to be a weaker brother and it is not a reason to be self-righteous or puffed if you are the stronger brother.  You see, no one can claim to be a weaker brother.  To claim it, you would have to say, “I know that God says eating meat is okay, but I call it a sin.”  Well, once you say that, you can’t claim to be the weaker brother because you know the truth.  Actually, if you know the truth but still call it a sin, that would be sinning because you are binding someone conscience beyond what scripture binds them, and then, you only authority would be…yourself.  Never a place you want to be.

Now we don’t live in that transition period that so many went through in the 1st century church.  We don’t have things that were once a sin but are now no longer a sin.  But we do have examples of things that God has declared as good that many people today feel is as sin that leads to these kinds of arguments?  I can think of one most clearly:  drinking alcohol.  Alcohol is legal once you turn 21.

God had declared alcohol okay.

  • Proverbs 31:6-7 –   Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,
    and wine to those in bitter distress; 7 let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.
  • Ecclesiastes 10:19 – read is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life,
    and money answers everything
  • Jesus made such good wine in John 2, that they wedding guests commended Him for bringing out the good stuff at the end of the party.  Usually, people would bring out cheap wine at the end of the party because people couldn’t tell the difference after a few drinks.  This is the same principle you see at a bar.  The first mixed drink is strong.  They get less and less strong as the night moves along.
  • Wine was used in the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians and we know this because Paul rebukes the Corinthians for getting drunk at the taking of the Lord’s Supper.
  • Paul even commends Timothy to drink wine for his upset stomach in 1 Timothy 5:23.

Scripture of course forbids drunkenness in over a dozen passages.  Because of this, some feel that any drinking is a sin.  That however, draws the line closer than scripture draws it.  Scripture forbids many things that are done in excess.  We are told not eat too much or be a glutton in several places in scripture.  God promises destruction to the person who eats too much in Deut. 21 and Proverbs 21.  We are told not talk too much in scripture.  Ecclesiastes 5 warns against using too many words and calls the excess of words the sacrifice of fools.  But in all of those areas, including alcohol, the believer is to exercise discipline.  That doesn’t mean you have to drink.  It just means that you can’t forbid someone to drink.  If you choose not to drink, that is perfectly acceptable.  Perhaps you do that because of history of alcoholism in your family or because you can’t exercise the proper discipline once you do drink.  Again, this passage clearly states that eating or not-eating, drinking or not drinking is acceptable.

What is not acceptable is two things.

  • Those who do drink cannot look down on those who don’t.
  • Those who don’t drink cannot tell those who do that they are sinning.

Obeying these verses would provide for an incredibly healthy and peaceful church even among believers who disagree.

Paul gives another example, and we’ll look at it in part 3.

February 23, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] Three – Holy Days Part One of this series can be found here.  Part Two can be found here.  The audio can be found […]

    Pingback by The Weaker and the Stronger Brother Part Three – Holy Days « J. Gordon Duncan | February 24, 2010 | Reply

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