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The Strong And The Weak
January 27, 2013
The called out must understand that the strength of the body (church) depends upon the growth and strength of individual members. The stronger believers need to teach and work with the weak to bring them into spiritual maturity. The ekklesia has an obligation to support those who are physically weak as well as those members who are spiritually weak. Only then will the church be strong.
The Strong and the Weak
by Bernie Parsons
Presented to Load church of Christ on 01-27-2013
There is an underlying tenant to Christianity that many professed Christians seem to overlook, leading to a weak church and misdirected members. It has to do with the obligation of the stronger members toward the weaker ones. I want to look at two aspects of the strong supporting the weak – both physically and spiritually.
First, there is the importance of those strong physically helping those who are weak physically.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men."
In the following passage, the apostle Paul repeated the importance of supporting the weak, or those who cannot work to support themselves, basing it upon the words of Jesus, Himself.
Acts 20:34 "Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.
35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."
The writer of Hebrews makes mention of the same thing.
Hebrews 6:10 "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister."
Of course, we also know how that Jesus and the apostles taught to share with the poor and needy. Since we have covered that in depth in the past, I want to also look at the spiritually weak.
The apostle Paul addressed this in his letters to the church at Corinth.
1 Corinthians 9:22 "To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."
2 Corinthians 11:28 "Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?"
The apostle Paul identified with the weak, putting himself in their place. This is called empathy. When we feel what the weak are feeling, we know how we need to assist them.
Romans 15:1 "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.
3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.”
We have investigated the edification, or building up, of the ekklesia on other occasions. One of the ways that this is done is by the strong helping the weak to learn and grow in the Lord. We see this when Paul wrote the church at Corinth about those Gentile Christians who, in their ignorance – which is a form of spiritual weakness – still regarded food to idols as important in some way.
1 Corinthians 8:6 "But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
7 Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.
9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.
10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;
11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
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."
When dealing with the weak, the apostle Paul states that we have to recognize their state of spirituality and treat them with gentleness. The spiritually strong might have a better understanding of the truth of God, but need to deal carefully with the ones who might not understand the expectations of God as well.
The apostle did not say to compromise the truth, but rather to be careful how we deal with the weak in those areas that God does not care about, one way or the other. God doesn’t care about the food that we eat, even if it has been offered to an idol. An idol god has no power to do good or evil, so the fact that food was offered to it is of no consequence to Him. However, the ignorance of the weak is of concern to God, and so we have the responsibility to be concerned.
Romans 14:1 "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's."
I read already from the following chapter 15 how that our reception of the weak is for their edification. It provides us the opportunity to work with them with the goal of strengthening their understanding, and thereby, their faith. It makes the church stronger.
For those who eat meat versus those who do not, neither is right or wrong. Instead, one is strong, while the other is weak. We see the same with those who esteem one day as more than another, while another believer sees all days the same. The truth is that God does not care either way. What He does care about is that we embrace the weak while trying to teach them God’s truth.
Romans 14:13 "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.
14 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.
15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
Always remember the goal is to help the weak grow into strength in the Lord. We seek their edification, resulting in spiritual maturity, as Paul states in the following passage: