The apostle to the gentiles who wrote this held the clothes of those who killed Stephen (Acts 7:58), confronted the apostle Peter face-to-face (Galatians 2:11), and sharply disagreed with his mentor, Barnabas (Acts 15:39). My point is not that Pauls belief and actions were inconsistent. My point is that respect is difficult to maintain.
When Paul [Saul] held the clothing of those who killed Stephen, Paul was not a Christiankilling Stephen was right (Acts 8:1). When, as a Christian, he confronted Peter, Peters behavior was inconsistent with Gods revelation to Peter. When Paul and Barnabas disagreed sharply, they had an extreme difference of opinion about John Mark. In Romans 14, Paul wrote about the enormous gulf between Jewish and gentile Christiansa major problem in first-century congregations (see Acts 15:1-5).
Yet, the Christian who confronted could redirect. Years later as an imprisoned Paul neared death, he asked Timothy to bring Mark to him. Nearing death, he asked for the man who had been at the center of his controversy with his best friend and work companion!
Regarding the enormous controversy in the first congregations, this man who had been the Jews Jew (Galatians 1:14) understood God could save anyone (including gentiles) on the basis of faith that Jesus was the resurrected Christ. A Jew did not need to cease to be culturally a Jew to accept Jesus was Gods Christ. A gentile did not need to cease to be culturally a gentile to accept that the living God resurrected the dead Jesus to be the living Christ.
That was extremely difficult for Jews, including Jewish Christians, to accept! The teaching that gentiles could be saved without circumcision (Genesis 17:9-14) or the Jewish dietary restrictions (Leviticus 11) were just plain offensive to Jewish converts! They felt so strongly about this that they made the apostle Peter afraid of them (see Galatians 2:11-13). Paul understood when he wrote Romans 14 that Gods acts were not hostage to human logic, human desires, and human opinions. God could and would save Christians who, in God, did contrasting things. Why? God knows motives, the whys.
A healthy congregation is a growing organism composed of every level of spiritual maturity. Only with respect for each other can we become what God intended.
Link to other Writings of David Chadwell