Romans 5:10 speaks of both the death of Christ and the life of Christ. Although we have already been redeemed, justified, and reconciled to God through the death of Christ, we still need to be saved in His life from many negative things. These negative things are not objective; they are subjective and are related to our inner being. In the foregoing messages we have covered four of the negative things from which we are saved in the life of Christ: the law of sin, which is the spontaneous power of sin in our flesh; worldliness, which includes everything worldly and common; naturalness, which includes our natural life, natural strength, natural wisdom, and natural disposition; and individualism, the attitude and practice of being individualistic. In this message we shall consider the fifth item—divisiveness.
In our natural makeup there is an element of divisiveness. Before we were saved, we probably did not realize that such an element existed within our being, that in our natural life there is the tendency to be divisive. Divisiveness is worse than naturalness or individualism. If someone is individualistic, he prefers to be left alone. He does not want others to bother him or to interfere with him. He simply wants to be whatever he is. But to be divisive is to cause division in an active way. In contrast to those who are individualistic, the divisive ones are aggressive to form parties. They contact the saints with the aim of dividing them. They may even travel from place to place with the intention of causing division.
Romans 8 says that the law of the Spirit of life sets us free from the law of sin, and Romans 6 tells us that the life of Christ is sanctifying us dispositionally. In Romans 12 we are told that we need to be transformed by the renewing of the mind. Romans 12 also says that we are one Body and members of one another. To be transformed is to be saved from naturalness, and to be built up into the Body is to be saved from individualism. In chapter twelve we have transformation and building, but when we come to chapters fourteen and fifteen, we see that Christ’s life can save us from divisiveness. In these chapters the Apostle Paul deals with our divisive nature.
In Romans 14 Paul covers the matter of receiving the saints. We need to be willing to receive all Christians. Even in the first century there were different kinds of Christians. Some ate only vegetables, and others ate all things. Some observed certain days above others, and others regarded every day the same. If you had lived at the time of the Apostle Paul, would you have been able to receive all these types of Christians? We need to receive all those who have the faith in Christ. If a person believes that Jesus is the Son of God incarnated to be a man, that He died on the cross for our sins, that He was resurrected physically and spiritually, and that He is now on the right hand of God, then we must receive him. In fact, we should have the attitude that we have already received him.
However, the problem is that Christians who eat only vegetables may not receive those who eat everything and that those who eat everything may not receive those who eat only vegetables. Likewise, those who regard every day the same may not receive those who observe certain special days, and those who observe certain days may not receive those who regard every day the same. Nevertheless, as long as someone believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, we need to receive him, no matter what he eats or whether he observes certain days.
All Christians believe in the Lord Jesus and in the Bible. However, we have different understandings or interpretations of many things in the Bible. In chapter fourteen Paul deals with two of these differences, eating and the observing of days. To eat something is to take it into us so that it becomes part of us, and to observe a day is to follow an outward ritual or regulation. The differences among today’s Christians are related mainly to the things they take in and to the outward rituals and regulations they observe. According to Colossians 2:16 and 17, the regulations in the Bible regarding outward observances are types and shadows of Christ. In Colossians 2:16 Paul says, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.” Here we see the two categories mentioned previously, eating and the outward observances. In the next verse Paul points out that all these “are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” If I stand in the light, a shadow in the shape of my body will be cast behind me. My body is the reality of my shadow. In like manner, the matters of eating and drinking and of keeping certain days are shadows, but the body, the reality of these shadows, is Christ.
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