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Beware of “Professional Weaker Brethren”

My daughter, Katelynn, who is eleven, wants to start wearing make-up. I have a rule: No make-up at all until she is twelve. My wife does not agree with me. She thinks I am being legalistic. I can’t help it. That is just the way I think. I can justify it in ten different ways with my hands tied behind my back. The problem is that none of my justification is really black or white. It is one of those things that the Scripture does not speak on. My wife’s argument makes sense too. However, I have scruples about the issue. These scruples bend my understanding and create their own passions. One more year and the scruples will be gone as Katelynn will be twelve.

Make-up is not the issue. I don’t want to go there. We all have scruples. That is not really a technical theological term, though it is in the dictionary. This is how it is defined: “An uneasy feeling arising from conscience or principle that tends to hinder action.” However, when it comes to our faith, scruples are hard to deal with. You have these militating  terms: grace and liberty.

When grace and liberty clash with “scruples,” more often than not, unfortunately, the scruples win. Why? Because we are so quick to sacrifice our liberty for the sake of the “weaker brethren.” Yes, this “weaker brethren” card is often pulled and legalists love it. In fact, it is used most often by those who are legalist wearing the disguise of those who are free. It is not that this card is illegitimate—it is not as if there are not true weaker brethren—but it is abused and the result is slavery.

I remember Chuck Swindoll talking about this saying: “Be careful, there are some people out there who are ‘professional weaker brethren.’”

“Kristie, I have scruples with this make-up thing. Maybe I cannot find a verse or a solid principle upon which to rest my theological head, but you need to be sensitive  and understanding to my hang-ups for the sake of my spirituality. One more year and my scruples will be gone.”

I highlighted some key words that legalists will use to manipulate the situation. “Sensitive,” “understanding,” “hang-ups,” “sake,” and most importantly, “my.”

From the other side, liberty is so often sacrificed.

“I don’t go to the movies because I don’t want to cause anyone to stumble.”

Often implied translation: “You should give up your liberty too if you want to be spiritual like me.”

“I don’t ever drink alcohol because a weaker brethren might see me and fall into sin.”

Often implied translation:I have scruples with this issue and you should too.”

“If someone saw me befriending this person, they may think I am condoning their actions. Therefore, I sacrifice my liberty for the sake of their frailty.”

Often implied translation: “I can’t be friends with people who are that sinful.”

Okay, to the passage: Romans 14.

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions” (Rom 14:1 ESV).

“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats” (Rom 14:1 ESV).

You see, here Paul is talking about one who is “weak in faith” who has scruples over the food that someone else was eating. Some were vegetarians and did not eat meat at all (probably because of its connection to the idol temples). They thought that it was morally wrong to eat meat. Paul makes it clear that it is not wrong in and of itself: “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself” (14:1a). However, because someone thinks it is wrong, for them it may be: “But it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean” (14:1). Therefore, when one of these “veggie only” guys is around, be careful or you might cause him to stumble (i.e. he will see you eating meat, and do what he believes to be wrong).

However, we can take this too far. I don’t think we are obligated to bow our liberty to everyone who has a problem with our actions. A “weaker brother” is one who is truly weaker, not just one who has a misguided interpretation of things. He is weaker because he has not been educated in these issues. You must understand, he is not supposed to or expected to stay “weaker.” Eventually, he is suppose to become stronger. Unfortunately, far too often these weaker brethren realize their power and become “professional weaker brethren.”

Don’t misread Paul. He certainly had no desire to compromise his liberty. We must temper the Romans passage with  Galatians:

“But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you” (2:4-5).

These “false brethren” should have played the “weaker brethren” card.

“Hey, Paul, you cannot do that or I will stumble.”

“Paul, what if there is someone who has scruples with what you are doing? Do you want them to stumble?”

In fact, they may have played these cards. However, Paul did not put up with it. Not for a second. Why? Because when you do, the Gospel is lost. Notice Paul said he did not subject to them even for an hour “so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.” Without liberty, there is no good news. Bondage only begets bondage. The Gospel is about being free.

Think about this: If we were to give in to every so-called weaker brethren what would the result be? We would always be bowing to the least common denominator. All actions would be off-limits. Think of all the things people have scruples with:

1. Going to movies
2. Dancing
3. “Mixed” bathing
4. Caffeine
5. Tobacco
6. Reading Harry Potter
7. Watching Glen Beck (because he is a Mormon)
8. Reading C.S. Lewis (because he denied inerrancy)
9. Sending my kids to public schools
10. Wearing flip flops to church
11. Drinking alcohol
12. Reading any Bible other than the KJV
13. Listening to Rock music
14. Going to church on Sat rather than Sun
15. Making a purchase that others think is a sinful waste of money
16. Playing video games that have blood
17. Taking anti-depressants
18. Women wearing pants
19. Saying “oh my God”
20. Going to a “seeker” church

For all of these things, I really do have representatives in my life right now. Every one of them would be offended if I crossed their line. If I were to follow this “no-offense” policy, I would be completely immobile in my life and actions. So would you.

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1 NAS).

We need to be sensitive, but not to the point where we are simply fueling others’ faulty understanding and legalism. People will control you to the degree that you let them. If you allow this to go on without discernment, not only will you be immobile, but you will have lost your liberty. Lose liberty, lose the Gospel.

Believe it or not, there are people out there who hate our liberty and will do anything to make us lose it. Beware of “professional weaker brethren” (and those who yield to them).

99 Responses to “Beware of “Professional Weaker Brethren””

  1. Again my brother a wonderfully laid out message on the freedoms we should enjoy. We sometimes do confuse our scruples without considering whether we have a Biblical basis for our decision for or against something.
    You 20 points highlights that for many, we can always rationalize our opinions to do or not to do. Perhaps the witness is an issue…but would it not be better to help the weaker brother find, how to be stronger, how to overcome his weakness. For example for some alcohol is wrong, for others maybe a drink is okay. I remember when I was in the Marines, a friend ran the NCO club. Kelly said, “Every night 10 people set at the bar, 1 becomes obnoxious, 1 thinks he is funny, 1 gets mean and usually get into a fight with either the guy that is funny or obnoxious, 3 or 4 get to drunk, and the rest you just cannot tell they have drank. My point we are all different for some this is a SIN for another that is a SIN.
    As Christian we are to help those who are weaker become stronger in their faith.

  2. 3 Things
    1. Great post. I have seen people be subject to some very “sensitive” weaker brothers (and sisters) over the years. There is a mature, gracious point in this where we have to help someone see that their weakness does not define the gospel and is in fact a hindrance to it.

    2. I have only sons (4 of them) so the whole makeup thing never came up, but 11 or 12 seems awfully young to start wearing makeup. Again, based on complete ignorance of daughters.

    3. There are so many other good reasons to not watch Glenn Beck.

    Peace

  3. “One of these things is not like the others”

    #19 ?

  4. Very well said indeed! So often legalists use these verses (and that mistranslated one about “appearance of evil”) to manipulate people into having falsely imposed scruples where none are really needed. Excellent job making the dichotomy clear!

  5. For the most part I think this is a really well written post. “#11. Alcohol” is really where I’d best be able to describe my tension with this post. Consider a self-described alcoholic. They know their addictive bent. Yes, they can and should become stronger when facing this over time, but does that ever mean I should encourage them to pick up a bottle again? (ie, eat meat)

    For them its not a matter of educating them on liberty, or scripture. (contra: “He is weaker because he has not been educated in these issues. “) It is a matter of knowing the nature of their human condition, and choosing not to allow something the opportunity to master their life once more. Such action should be commended, and supported.

  6. The Pharisees weren’t “strong enough” to take Jesus’ new teaching and the liberty He brought to the use and application of the Law.

    Did He defer to them and respect their “weakness” and not dine with sinners and tax collectors in order not to offend them or cause them to do the same and thereby perhaps stumble and break other parts of their laws?

    Did He hold off on healing on the Sabbath if they were too “weak” to accept that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath?

    Did Paul defer to the “weakness” of the Judaizers and refuse to eat with Gentiles until they became comfortable with the idea?

    When do the “weaker” brethren have to obey Paul’s injunction not to judge another Master’s servant?

  7. Michael,

    A couple of quick points concerning your latest post: 1) Liberty is not license and 2) what would you teach concerning the biblical doctrine of separation?

  8. #19? careless use of the name is a subjective issue?

  9. What’s up with No. 19? Taking the Lord’s name in vain is prohibited. Complying with that and insisting that others do is 100-percent X-like and 0-percent legalistic.

    By the way, it irritates me that Christans praise and recommend movies that contain filthy language — including ones in which God’s name is taken in vain. Why would you want to be entertained by this trash? and if you must, why do you feel compelled to tell others how “great” it is.

  10. Mike W,

    Amen brother!

  11. Yes!!!

    Although, we should avoid Glenn Beck, not because he is a Mormon, but because he simply has nothing rational to say.

  12. Although, we should avoid Glenn Beck, not because he is a Mormon, but because he simply has nothing rational to say.

    You must have heard Beck’s take on the Dead Sea Scrolls :)

    http://aboulet.com/2010/05/27/glenn-beck-is-an-idiot-dead-sea-scroll-edition/

  13. Excellent post! And Eric W, great points as well.

    I think some people confuse the ‘weaker brother’ for one is is new, ignorant in their faith and is at the bottom tier of ‘experiential’ experiential sanctification. Yet, this post brings out the inverse relationship of weakness with grace. So the ‘weaker brother’ may actually be one who has been a committed Christian for some time but has not allowed growth in grace and instead confuses prohibitions with sanctification. I can’t help but draw the parallel to Paul’s indictment in 1 Corinthians 3 citing carnality as the problem with his audience because they formulated their own standards by which they accepted others.

  14. Umm.. I go to a fundamental church. And the term “scruples” is never found there. My father-in-law pastor calls it “SPIRITUAL CONVICTION!” LOL. Makes me chuckle and sad at the same time. I would get up everytime he talks about it in service, but I do my squats at the gym, not in the church pew. I do bring my NIV to church though (I hope that doesn’t send someone backsliding).

  15. Rick and EricW,

    Couldn’t agree more on the Glenn Beck thing. Not going to be too harsh on believers who watch him, but the truth is he has no clue when it comes to matters of church history and belief. He often just seems to make things up with no support whatsoever from actual history.

    I also recall another debacle between him and Jim Wallis where he said that Christians should leave any church that teaches “social justice” as part of their message (I would agree with him if had said churches which teach ONLY social justice to the detriment of the Gospel, but that’s not what he said). Sorry Mr. Beck, but social justice (e.g. caring for the poor, the downtrodden, the outcast, etc.) has been an integral part of the church since Christ himself walked the Earth 2000 years ago. Just because you see this as a “code work” now for socialism or communism doesn’t mean that it is (at least no always – it could be, but not in most cases). Furthermore, though I am strongly opposed to socialism because I don’t believe it work, I’m not so sure that socialism is incompatible with the Christian Religion.

  16. Mike W and Rev,

    Skubalon

  17. John From Down Under August 31, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    In our inner city church we have a few recovering alcoholics who won’t even take communion if it’s pure alcohol. I took a couple of them out for a bite not long ago and because it was a hot and humid day and we sat outdoors, I craved a lite beer. I asked one of them if he would have a problem me drinking it, and he said ‘no, we don’t care’. These guys are not flatterers and are pretty off-the-cuff, so I watched their reaction when I was sipping it and they truly did not care. Our conversation was free flowing, meaningful and humor abounded.

    They explained to me how excessive use of alcohol damaged their lives and how happy they were for ‘being clean x number of days’. They were also honest enough to say that they don’t expect everyone else to feel the same about ‘ a drink’ as they do.

    I took a risk when I ordered a lite beer in front of them, but this issue has been bugging me for a while and I wanted to put it to the test. Three things here for me:

    a) these guys have a genuine problem and more likely will be complete teetotalers for life
    b) they are clearly NOT the ‘professional weaker brethren’ as per the analogy used
    c) in THEIR case I think it would be foolish of me to try and ‘educate’ them that it’s not sinful to drink. We have mutual respect for each other’s preference and neither of us needs to sacrifice their liberty.

  18. The weaker and stronger brothers need to be defined well. It seems clear that the weaker brother is someone who has little to no control over something that is potentially evil in its use. He must therefore rid himself of it completely. The stronger brother is someone who can control himself in his use of something that is morally neutral, but potentially destructive. He can therefore partake, since he will take it in a direction so as to worship the Lord with it rather than to do evil with it.

    What, therefore, does this have to do with legalism? What does it have to do with makeup or music, etc.? I think if we define what’s going on, we have a better chance of understanding the distinctions between legalism (i.e., where someone replaces biblical teaching with culturally-gained, religious ideas that often have misinterpreted or misapplied Scripture) and the weaker/stronger brother issue. Michael has the right over his daughter to prohibit her from wearing makeup simply because he doesn’t think it’s a good idea. He’s not replacing biblical teaching with it, nor does Rom 14-15 apply, unless someone wants to say that makeup may lead to sin in some way, and Michael is the weaker brother.

  19. Let me guess: Michael doesn’t want his daughter to wear makeup yet because it will make her look older and he does not want older guys hitting on his little girl. An argument from common sense…I would think.

  20. “Weaker brother” does not equal “legalist.” Paul did not yield to the legalist Judaizers in Galatia. However, he is certainly willing to yield his liberty for the sake of the “weaker brothers” in Corinth (1Cor. 8-10), and he encourages those who are stronger in Corinth to do the same.

    He tells them that they are stronger because of their “knowledge,” but tells them that knowledge puffs up, whereas love edifies. Therefore, if someone is operating in knowledge (liberty) without love for the brethren, they are in error. Using the term “weaker brother” interchangeably with the term “legalist” is tantamount to using the term “stronger brother” interchangeably with the term “antinomian.”

    Paul does not deride or rebuke weaker brothers. He does not use the term in a derogatory fashion. They are not in sin because they are weaker. Rather, they are avoiding what would be sin for them if they were to partake in it. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, Paul exhorts the church to be accepting of their non-practice of such things. I think we should be very careful not to go against this principle that is clearly laid out in Scripture. These are God’s children, not our pet projects.

  21. Good post about “weaker brethren”. It makes life harder for us who work in truly secular environments if the agnostics grew up among legalists. “I can’t stand Christians because they are silly enough to expect everyone to do X” is a complaint I often have to practice discernment about: are they cruising for an argument, or do they actually think all Christians believe that? I do practice sensitivity to other belief systems (not heating dishes containing meat in the microwave in our mostly vegetarian Hindu lab, etc.), but when others assume I must bend to crazy rules because I call myself Christian, I do correct them on it.
    About the daughter- I used to teach middle school and never wore makeup (chemosensitivity issues). I look ten years younger than my age to this day. I always encouraged the girls to just keep their faces fresh and clean, and get the “glow” from food, exercise, and sleep, not a packet of chemical dust- the “right” kind of boy likes a WYSIWYG girl anyway.

  22. Michael T,

    Very uplifting theological term. Perhaps you would be better served using that term somewhere else.

  23. Enjoyed the post.

    But, what is the best solution? Your article seemed to leave us hanging at the end…

    Should we care nothing of other’s scruples?

    Should we enslave our freedoms sometimes? Never? All the time?

    Should we explain our position to the weaker brother and then proceed with our freedom?

    Again, enjoyed the article, but was hoping for some wise, practical implementation of the best gospel response.

  24. First time obedience – If you say not to do something then the children should obey. The bible doesn’t say anything about putting up toys after a child is done playing with the toys but when you command or ask them to they are to obey. Plain and simple.

  25. To Pastor Kevin:

    I think that’s the point of most of our life and conduct as followers of Jesus.

    In fact, I think that is the point that may have brought Paul to repeatedly talk about Christian liberty and grace in the first place.

    It doesn’t take much faith to follow a list of rules, or a prescription of behavior.

    The weaker brother just may need that sort of instruction lest they completely go bonkers with an irresponsible use of freedom in Christ. The stronger brother may be at the point where by seeking God’s face, and maturing in faith they understand the character of God and the sort of conduct and principles that govern their lives, without having to codify it into “When This, Do That.”

    It takes a greater amount of faithfulness toward, confidence in and most importantly Love for God to engage one’s mind and heart with one’s faith when there are no easy answers. This, I feel, is the sort of Christianity that God wants us to strive for. Still depending 100% on our Lord, but not depending on lists any further than he would expect.

    It’s like in school. You learn how to multiply numbers. You may start out with the Multiplication Tables, but the goal isn’t to know how to multiply two and seven, but what the concepts behind multiplication really are so that one can multiply 234 and 598 without having to rigidly memorize anything.

    Should we care nothing of other’s scruples? Should we enslave our freedoms sometimes? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It’s a matter of your maturity, their maturity, the immediate circumstances, the wisdom of saying something at that point in time, etc etc

    A lot of the time the “practical applications” that people are looking for is really just another shade of the “Tell me what to do and I’ll do it” sort of soft legalism. The Christian walk isn’t about having a set of things for one to do to guarantee any sort of outcome, but about loving God.

  26. Don’t wear flip-flops to church.
    Just don’t do it!!
    Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.

  27. “It takes a greater amount of faithfulness toward, confidence in and most importantly Love for God to engage one’s mind and heart with one’s faith when there are no easy answers.”

    I just don’t see Jesus saying, “If your hand causes you to stumble cut it off and throw it from you, but if you can keep from sinning without cutting it off, you are considered greater in My kingdom.” Regardless of what liberties you give up or are able to maintain, the point is that you grow in sanctification and focus on yourself rather than others. The legalist is no better than the libertine, and the antinomian is no better than the weaker brother. Rather, those who kill sin in their own lives should do so. How they do it is up to them, and how I do so is up to me. God has given us liberty in this area.

  28. Hodge:
    …..unless someone wants to say that makeup may lead to sin in some way, and Michael is the weaker brother.

    Weaker brother and legalism is not the same, but people use the “weaker brother” in order to justify the walls that they build around the scripture.
    Examples:
    A. My pastor doesn’t go to movies because and I quote.
    “1. Because I am not in control. I can’t turn it off if i want too.”
    (lol.. he could walk out if he wanted too)
    “2. If someone else sees me there and they think it is a sin, then I don’t want them to fall.”

    B. My church only uses the King James because
    1. If we use multiple translations, then what is stopping people from creating very liberal translations to justify their postions?

    C. Many people in my church do not where makeup. why? here is some answers

    1. It isn’t that makeup is wrong, but they don’t want to push women toward sin. Ie. a little makeup today, and then the next generation is wearing a little more, and in a couple generations.. we are all prostitutes.

    2. Makeup may cause others to sin by the person lusting after the woman wearing the makeup.

    3. Makeup is something the world does, and we are in the world, not of the world.

    People do say that makeup would cause someone to sin, so Michael, being the fundalmentalist that he is says in his mind “if I put my daughter in makeup at 11, it might cause others or my daughter to sin, so I am going to put up a wall and establish a no makeup until 12 rule.” (cheap joke calling Michael a fundamentalist)

    Each of Michael’s list of 20, I have personally witnessed people wall builing for the sake of others, not just for themselves. Regularly my church will say something like “now there isn’t anything scripturally against having a beer, but I don’t do it because it might cause me or someone else to sin.” This is a hint for others in the congregation follow suit. The weaker brother card is played far to often in setting extra-biblical rules.

  29. Skaggers,

    The issues you mention evidence a misunderstanding of the passage. It has nothing to do with these issues. The passage is talking about the control of oneself by using a neutrally created thing. It has nothing to do with the thing itself leading to sin. It has to do with the persons involved not being able to control themselves.
    Therefore, I say again, what does this have to do with legalism, which isn’t about the mishnaic walls that are built, but about walls that replace those of Scripture? In other words, you’re arguing that Paul is talking about slippery slopes when in fact he seems not be addressing that issue at all. He’s addressing the maturity/mental and spiritual strength of the individual, not the thing itself. So does wearing makeup have the potential of causing the person to want to wear more make up and is that a sin? Whether it is a sin because one would argue that it falls into our culture’s habit of teaching young girls to be sex objects, to value looks over character, to want boys to stumble over them, etc. are different issues. It’s simply an abuse of Scripture to try to fit these issues into this text.
    So if the weaker brother stumbles because you want a beer, then your love is for the beer not the weaker brother. That’s Paul’s point. He’s concerned about the person, not the thing used. Those are different issues.

  30. Let me try to clarify something:

    Paul is addressing causing a weaker brother to sin by pushing him into something he views as sinful or causes him to sin by its abuse. The weaker brother cannot control himself or his conscience in viewing, for instance, going to a festival and eating meat that may have been dedicated or sacrificed to idols. He cannot participate in festivals or holidays originally dedicated to pagan gods. He cannot drink wine because of its associations with these festivals and because of its association with drunkenness and prostitution. For him to be pushed or told that he is being ignorant for not participating causes him to stumble because he no longer is worshiping the Lord in his mind by doing something he views as wrong.
    Hence, it has nothing to do with what Bible you use. You’re not making a weaker brother stumble by using an NIV. You may be if you make him feel bad for not using one even though he would be feeling that he is not pleasing the Lord (but rather you) by using one. So it’s not about you doing something in front of him, but in trying to get him to do it as well. Apart from that, therefore, it has nothing to do with these other issues, which should be addressed individually and where Christians should exercise righteousness/wisdom (which are hand in hand in the Bible).

  31. I don’t see where Paul said something like, ” A “weaker brother” is one who is truly weaker, not just one who has a misguided interpretation of things. He is weaker because he has not been educated in these issues. You must understand, he is not supposed to or expected to stay “weaker.” Eventually, he is suppose to become stronger.”

    Paul doesn’t even insinuate that eventually the weaker brother is expected to become stronger and believe like Paul did and until that time we are to deal with the weaker brother with charity. Rather he does teach that the strong are to support the weak.

    1 Cor 8:13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

  32. Wow… I agree with so much of what you have said except that some of your so called “scruples” on the list are actually wrong. If saying “Oh my God” is now what we call a “scruple” you might as well just call it the 9 Commandments (and yes, I realize that that is only one way, of many, in which we take the Lord’s name in vain… but it IS just that. If that’s a scruple, I’m guilty as charged!)

    The only other one I take issue with is worshiping on Sat. rather than Sun. It is called The Lord’s day because we actually celebrate Easter every Sunday. It is HIS day… so we shouldn’t assume that if we give him Sat. night we should be able to spend Sun. at the beach or sleeping in (unless of course worship starts at a nice enough hour to allow a slow start!) ;^P

    Otherwise… great article. Be careful that the Bible actually jives with what you consider a mere scruple though.

  33. Hodge, are you the same Hodge from Franklin, TN? I really appreciated your points.

  34. “For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.” (1Corinthians 8:11-13; NASB)

    Notice that Paul does not say, “Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will simply reeducate him on the matter so that he is strong like me.” Rather, he says, “Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.” Do people abuse this principle? Yes. When they think that the term “weaker brother” means that others are sinning if they don’t have the same “scruples” as them. However, a truly weak brother is one that would truly be sinning if they were to partake in what would, to you, be a liberty.

    This is the principle:

    The weaker brother does not get to determine for the stronger what is and is not a sin for them.

    Conversely, the stronger brother does not get to determine for the weaker what should and should not be a liberty for them.

  35. Taking the Lord’s name in Vain: What does it really mean
    (an article by C. Michael Patton –here at P&P)

    http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2007/06/what-does-it-really-mean-to-take-the-lords-name-in-vein/

  36. Skaggers, do people in your church eat pie? cake? biscuits and gravy? cuz those things can lead to obesity even easier than make-up can lead to adultery! That’s the problem with that sort of legalistic ‘spirituality’. Where does it stop? Who decides the parameters? It’s man made religion akin to what you will find in all false religion. Self-righteousness is the deeper sin which accompanies it.

  37. Billy and Hodge,

    I think you are maybe missing the point that CMP is missing. As Hodge has pointed out this passage has nothing to do with legalism, however many people (in churches I’ve been a part of) make this passage about legalism in a pre-textual manner.

    The problem isn’t that a brother is weak in one area or another. The problem being addressed is rather the tendency among some to use the principle of the weaker brother to inject legalism into the church. It’s no longer simply “I don’t drink because I’m afraid it may lead to abuse” rather it become “NO ONE should drink, and in fact drinking at all is sin, because it may lead to abuse” (as my grandma would assert). One of these is a true weaker brother, the other is a legalist using the weaker brother passage as a pretext for asserting control and giving them an excuse to look down on others who do not share their scruples. The quick way to distinguish the two in my opinion is whether or not they look down upon those who choose to exercise their liberty in Christ and partake in whatever is at issue.

  38. Thanks Michael. That seems very clear now. My point was really addressing those who were combating legalism with this passage, and therefore, joining the fallacy of the people who may use it otherwise, but your point is well received. No one should use this passage in discussing issues of legalism either way. That is a good point.

  39. Kelly,

    Thank you for your kind words. No, I’m not from TN. Beautiful state though. We Hodges are everywhere, and it seems we’re often set apart for theology. ;) God bless.

  40. CarolJean writes:

    Paul doesn’t even insinuate that eventually the weaker brother is expected to become stronger and believe like Paul did and until that time we are to deal with the weaker brother with charity. Rather he does teach that the strong are to support the weak.

    Paul talks about that constantly. He’s always calling believers to maturity. He hammers the Corinthians because they are NOT mature. Let me restate your point from a different perspective – “Paul wants the weaker believers to stay as they are – weak, so the strong ones can support them.” Is that really what you think?

    This same comment applies to Billy – Paul’s entire point is to educate believers (or re-educate, as you put it) that we are free.

    I’m astonished at these ideas, that we are not to move towards maturity or encourage other to do so.

  41. nancypants, how do you interpret this:

    “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” Col 2:16

  42. Actually, the sabbath was a day where God rested. Nowhere in the bible does it state we must attend church on Sundays. Sunday is merely the day Christ arose and we honor it. We are instructed to commune and fellowship with other believers, and what better place to do it. But nowhere does it state we must attend church on Sundays. To honor the sabbath in the likeness of God is to “rest.” Which is what the big to-do about Christ healing (working) on the Sabbath was…they were accusing him of “working.”

  43. Dave, above that passage it reads, “8 See to it that no one takes you captive by nphilosophy and oempty deceit, according to phuman tradition, according to the qelemental spirits1 of the world, and not according to Christ.” The sabbath as an institution was set up by God at creation.

    I believe this passage is not referring to whether or not the observance of the sabbath (which was relocated to Sunday after the resurrection in the very early days of the early church and established in scripture by the use of the term “the Lord’s Day”) is necessary, but rather more along the lines of how the pharisees sat and waited for Jesus to heal someone on the sabbath (or do anything they had deemed not okay for sabbath activity — for a modern equivalent, think of those who would suggest you are to not have any sort of fun on the sabbath), or eat with unclean hands, or sit with sinners, etc. Considering the things it is grouped with I do not believe this is a question of “what day is the Lord’s day?” or indeed *if* it should be observed (as this would strike out yet another of the commandments which Jesus by no means eradicated but rather expanded) but rather whether or not we are creating a new law or set of laws as the pharisees and ascetics were doing?

    If it truly does not matter then this would essentially mean that every day is the same and we should just as easily make any day of the week the day that we gather corporately as a body. But the new testament is clear that the Lord’s Day was a particularly recognized day in the early church by the apostles themselves. Therefore it is wiser, I believe, to assume that there is still a certain day set aside for the purpose of worship rather than to assume that the sabbath no longer applies.

    What do you do with this verse? I Cor. 5:12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?

  44. I believe the Law, including the Ten Commandments, has been nailed to the cross. It is no longer the source (really, it never was) of our righteousness. I think Jesus elaborated on it to hammer home the idea that we cannot meet that standard – to make it more impossible. Our only hope is Grace received through faith.

    If we’re to be keeping the Commandments, how about circumcision?

    I’ve run into people before that claim that Sunday is somehow “officially” established in the NT as the “new” sabbath, but I have never heard a convincing argument.

    1 Cor. 5 is about church discipline, which I believe to be an uncommon, last option for a defiant believer. And Paul gives a list of situations in which it could be implemented. Sabbath-breaking is certainly not among them.

    I think we’re on completely different pages here.

  45. If it truly does not matter then this would essentially mean that every day is the same and we should just as easily make any day of the week the day that we gather corporately as a body.

    That’s exactly what I think.

  46. First sentence of my post 45 should have read “I think you are maybe missing the point that CMP is MAKING.” I used missing for the last word by mistake, however I think people got the jist anyhow.

  47. Thanks for clearing that up, Michael. I was thinking, “What? He thinks CMP is missing the point?”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] is an excerpt from Beware of “Professional Weaker Brethren” by Michael C. Patton at Parchment and Pen and I encourage you to read the whole post!~ J […]

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  9. Parchment and Pen » What Does it Really Mean to Keep the Sabbath - September 8, 2010

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    […] makes Jesus happier somehow.  People like that are what Michael Patton is speaking of in a recent blog post where he says: I don’t think we are obligated to bow our liberty to everyone who has a problem […]

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    […] Check out this article from Parchment and Pen written by C Michael Patton entitled, Beware of the “Professional Weaker Brethren” […]

  13. “Gray areas” in Christian ethics: Avoid every appearance of evil? « Push of Pikes - November 17, 2010

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