Many thanks to Tom Roberts and to Watchman Magazine for the following material....

Charts (Lesson Three)
Romans 14 and Fellowship with Sin

"By Grace Through Faith"

Fellowship in Christ Limited by God's Holiness
(1 John 1)

God is Light
We Must Walk in the Light to be Sons of Light

Romans 14-15

Opposing Theories

A Proper Exegesis of Romans 14

Any Attempt to Put Sinful Doctrine
or Practices into Romans 14

Romans 14 - 15
God's Plan for Unity
(Matters of Authorized Liberty)

Attempts to put sin in the text violates Text and Context:

There Should Be No Dispute On This!

Romans 14
God's Plan for Unity in Matters of Judgment

"In matters of faith, unity; In matters of judgment, liberty; In all things, charity."

Tolerance and Forbearance for brethren who differ with one another in matters of indifference to God

No Tolerance for Sin - "Not for an hour" (Gal. 2:4-5)

Romans 14: Text & Context
(Read it often - Eph. 3:4)

Matters of Faith Determined By:

Direct Commands, Statements
(Matthew 26:26-29)

Approved Apostolic Examples
(Acts 20:7)

Divine Implications
(Necessary Inferences)
(Acts 20:7)

Matters of Indifference are those beliefs or practices which are not specifically regulated by Scripture: neither commanded nor forbidden.
(Examples: Hour of day; containers)

Matters of Indifference
(Categories of Action)

Things Commanded

Things Forbidden

Things Allowed

Which Is Found In Romans 14?

Romans 14 Addressed
"Matters of Indifference"

(Romans 14:7; 1 Corinthians 8:8)

(Romans 14:5-6; Colossians 2:16)

The faith and practice of both "meats" and "days" in Romans 14 are "good," "clean," "to be received." They are neither commanded (required) nor forbidden (sinful), but allowed.

"Doubtful Disputations"

Not matters of "The Faith" for God has not left "The Faith" in Doubt:
(Eph. 3:4; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pt. 1:21)

In themselves, doubtful disputations are not sinful.

Context of "Doubtful Disputations"

Practices, Beliefs and Brethren:

The only sin of this passage is that of judging a brother or practice sinful (vs. 10, 13) or eating while in doubt, offending conscience (vs. 20,23)

Distinction Between Matters of the Faith and Liberties



Authorized Liberty


Carnal Warfare

Women in Subjection

Covering Question

Teach Gospel

Bible Classes

One Cup (Fruit of Vine)

Number Containers

Divorce & Remarriage

Legal Papers


Funeral in Building

Preach Gospel

Call names, etc.

Allowing a weak brother to control fellowship destroys authorized liberties and violates Romans 14.

If an issue cannot be proven by "book, chapter and verse" to be in The Faith, Liberty must be allowed.

Romans 14 Deals With Matters of Indifference

Notice how the text identifies these matters:

  1. The herb eater was "weak in faith" not sinful.
  2. It was equally right to eat or not eat meat.
  3. It was sinful to condemn the meat eater.
  4. One could eat or not eat "to the Lord."
  5. Eating meat was "clean."
  6. Eating meat was "good."
  7. Meat eating was included in the category of "all things are pure."
  8. God "received" the meat eater.
  9. The meat eater was made to "stand" (versus fall) by God.
  10. One could eat meat as long as he did not cause the "weak" to stumble.

Does Romans 14 Include Adulterous Marriages?

  1. Is man who commits adultery "weak in faith" or sinful?
  2. Is it equally right to commit or not commit adultery?
  3. Is it sinful to condemn the man who commits adultery?
  4. Can one commit adultery "to the Lord"?
  5. Is adultery "clean"?
  6. Is committing adultery "good"?
  7. Is adultery among things included in "all things are pure"?
  8. Does God "receive" the adulterer?
  9. Does the adulterer "stand" (versus fall)?
  10. Can one commit adultery as long as he is not an occasion of stumbling to the "weak"?

Weak and Strong Brethren

Informed, able to practice, right understanding, doing it to the Lord, convinced in own mind, gives God thanks. Danger: Cause weak to stumble; set brother at nought.

Uninformed, unable to practice, poor understanding, doing it not to the Lord, convinced in own mind, gives God thanks. Danger: Judge his brother, violate his own conscience.

Fallacy of Allowing Weak Brother to Control Fellowship

Instructions to the Weak Brother

  1. There was no inherent sin in the practice of the strong brother.
  2. Receive "one another".
  3. Do not despise.
  4. Do not judge - bind where God did not.
  5. Allow strong brother to practice.
  6. Hold personal conscience to self.
  7. Weak brother could continue in non-practice.
  8. Strong brother could continue in practice.
  9. God received them both!

Applied in New Testament to: Meats, Days, Circumcision, Jewish Customs (1 Corinthians 9:20)

Applied today to: Bible Classes, multiple containers, Christmas, movies, national customs

Fallacy of Allowing Weak Brother to Control Fellowship

Weak brother binds where God has not bound - Paul refused to allow it!

"Stop Judging - Stop Disputing - Practices are Clean - God Receives"

Weak Brother Destroys Practice of Authorized Liberties.





Carnal Warfare

Romans 13

Sunday School Org., Superintendent


1 Timothy 3:15

Women Not in Subjection

Covering - No Covering

1 Corinthians 11

1875 - Lard on Romans 14

Moses E. Lard:

"These thoughts are his own private opinions respecting things about which there is no command. He, therefore, has the right to hold them without interference from others. The things which his thoughts respect are in themselves indifferent; and therefore the thoughts which relate to them are indifferent. Consequently, so long as the thoughts do not lead him who holds them into wrong, he is not to be disturbed in them."

Commentary on Paul's Letter to Romans, Standard Publishing Company, 1875, pg. 413.

Similar statements from McGarvey and Lipscomb

Modern Brethren Comment on Subject of Romans 14

Robertson L. Whiteside (pp. 266-277)

Bryan Vinson, Sr. (pp. 259-275)

A.W. Dicus (pp. 99-104)

The Faith or "My Faith?"

It is contended that Romans 14 refers to "matters of doctrinal differences" that are a part of "The Faith." It is on this basis that we are hearing "unity in diversity" in doctrinal matters.



Romans 14 cannot be teaching that "The Faith" includes fellowship in doctrinal differences.




Preach it, contend for it, Mt. 28; Gal. 1:23; Jude 3

"Have it to yourself before God" Rom. 14:22

Why the Interest in Romans 14?
"What's All the Fuss About?"

Some who advocate divorce for every cause are looking for a loophole

They have tried:

Unsuccessful, they now try Romans 14!
Just like the Texas Boll Weevil, "Just looking for a home!"

"Unity In Diversity"
Gnosticism (1 John)

"Walk in Darkness" (1:6)
Say "We Have No Sin" (1:8, 10)

Deny Deity of Jesus (1:1-3; 4:2)

Claim to Love God (4:20)
Failed to Keep Commandments (5:4)

Opposed, They "Went Out" (2:19)

"Unity In Diversity"
Fellowship (Gospel/Doctrine)

Leroy Garrett:

"The implications of all this to unity and fellowship are weighty. It means that the gospel itself, not our doctrinal interpretations, is the basis of our being one in Christ and in fellowship with each other. That is, when one believes in Jesus and obeys him in baptism, he is our brother and in the fellowship. ... This is oneness and this is unity. That fellowship is strengthened and made joyful by doctrine, but it is the gospel and not doctrine that determines fellowship. ... In doctrinal matters there can be and will be diversity of opinion and interpretation. It was so with the apostles themselves. But this is good, for we stretch each other's minds and help each other to grow in knowledge in our mutual search for truth..."

Restoration Review, XVII, No. 3, pp. 42-46

"Unity In Diversity"
Fellowship (Gospel/Doctrine)

Carl Ketcherside:

"No honest opinion held by one who is in Christ Jesus and who respects his lordship, is 'another gospel.' Since it is the gospel which forms the basis of the fellowship with the Father, the Son and with one another in Christ, such an opinion can never be made a test of union or communion in Christ. A man may hold a view as to the perserverance of the saints, the manner of the resurrection, or the second coming of our Lord, and he may prove to be as wrong as one could be, but he cannot be debarred from citizenry in the kingdom of heaven by the other subjects...."

via Truth Magazine, 8/21/75
"Another Gospel," Twisted Scriptures
Mission Messenger, 1965, pp. 4, 7-9

"Unity In Diversity"
Fellowship (Gospel/Doctrine)

Carl Ketcherside:

"I regard every sincere, contrite person on the face of the earth who believes in Jesus as the Son of God as God's child in prospect. He is God's child because he has been begotten of my Father but has not been born into the family relationship."

Firm Foundation, 9/25/62

Romans 14:1 -- 15:13

"My comments here will be based on Romans 14:1 -- 15:13. This section of Paul's most sublime epistle deals with doctrinal differences among baptized believers." (p. 2)

(Rubel Shelly, "A Call to Action," 11/3/94, ACU)


Roman Christians were mistakenly making "meats" and "days" matters of doctrine and attempting to bind in these areas. Paul wrote to correct this concept of substituting doctrine for personal judgment.

Tolerate Different Doctrines?
Meats, Days, Wine

"The doctrine -- note, doctrine -- held by either group was tolerable to Paul. The attitude displayed by both groups was intolerable....

These same issues are still matters of doctrine -- not opinion -- among people in our churches"

(Rubel Shelly, "A Call to Action," p. 3)


  1. These were matters of judgment.
  2. They were being treated as doctrinal and Paul corrected that.
  3. He also corrected intolerable attitudes

Accept Doctrinal Error?

"First, I believe we must accept one another as brothers beloved of God. 'Accept one another, then,' pleaded Paul, 'just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God' (Romans 15:7). ...Like it or not, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. That brothers differ on the millennium, work of the Holy Spirit, church organization, instrumental music, having a glass of wine, the role of women in church leadership, and a dozen other issues does not change the fact that they are all children of God."

(Rubel Shelly, "A Call to Action," p. 5)

"Accept One Another as Christ Accepts Us"
Does Christ Accept Us in Error? (2 John 9-11)

Three Orders of Truth?
Same Old Gospel/Doctrine Distinction

First-Order Truth:

Second-Order Truth:

Third-Order Truth:

(Rubel Shelly, "A Call to Action," p. 5)

One Faith (Ephesians 4:3-6)
The Truth (John 14:6)
One Gospel (Galatians 1:6)
The Faith (Jude 3)
The Law (James 2:10)

Gospel/Doctrine used Interchangeably in Scripture (1 Timothy 1:8-11)

Free to Practice Error?

"Without abandoning or compromising the first-order truths of the gospel ... we must stop labeling as 'apostate' and withholding (or withdrawing) fellowship over second ... and third-order ... truths. This means that people on both sides of these issues who have judged and condemned each other ... must repent of their past behaviors, be willing to admit their wrong and consciously undertake a more Christlike treatment of one another. We are free to hold and practice our different points of view, but we are not free to judge one another any longer."

(Rubel Shelly, "A Call to Action," p. 5)

Stop Labelling Error
Stop Withdrawing
Free to Hold Error
Free to Practice Error

Does Christ Accept Us in Error?
(Romans 15:7)

IF Christ accepts us in:

Why Would Christ Not Accept Us In:

Subjects Belonging in Romans 14
Don Patton


Baptismal Garments



Blue Jeans


Brewery Work




Capital Punishment

Carnal Warfare

Carpet Color


Christmas (Individual)




Dance Bands


Dating Activity

Decorative Crosses



Easter Eggs


Exposed Ankles


Girly Magazines


Hair Styles

Holding Hands


Home Classes

Horse Racing




John Birch Society


Length of hair

Length of skirts

"Low" neckline



Meeting Houses

Mini Skirts







Pedal Pushers


Ph. D's

Piano (Individual)

Picture of Christ

Playing Cards


Pray before Col.


Square Dancing

Stained Glass Windows

Public School

Pulpit flowers

Race Relations



Religious Papers

Religious Schools


Seat Cushions

Shaving legs

Social Drinking


Women Working




Speed Limits

Sports Cars




Sweat Suits












Xmas Trees

"X" for Christ


Romans 14 and the Chart of 100

"And so, when we are dealing with factious individuals that destroy the unity and the enthusiasm and the souls that could be reached with such enthusiasm, when we are dealing with the public proclamation of false doctrine or when we are dealing with issues that all are necessarily involved in, then we're not dealing with the things that this chapter described, but rather we're dealing with individual issues such as we had on the chart earlier. Now you notice that this last chart is lots smaller than the other one. There aren't that many congregational issues. There are a whole lot more than we'd like for there to be. But there are exactly ten times as many on the first chart as on the one we just looked at. And I think that really understates the relationship. There are many more individual issues over which brethren fall out regarding and these are the things discussed in this chapter for which there is no excuse when we have dissension and falling out among brethren regarding instructions."

Don Patton transcript, p. 6


Command to "Receive"

"Notice the commands, not suggestions, not advice, but the commands that are given regarding these issues, the scruples, the individual conscientious decisions made among brethren: some wrong, some incidental, but differences that we have over such matters. He commands in vs. 1, "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, yet not for decisions of scruples."

Don Patton transcript, pp. 6,7

Is It Misrepresentation to Tie the Chart to Romans 14?

"And that's why we've had all of these dissensions, tens of thousands of them, much more than the hundred that we had on the board a few minutes ago. Enough things that we have to divide over. but not nearly as many as what we have divided over and we ought to be ashamed.

"And the answer to it is in the divine wisdom that we have from this chapter."

Don Patton transcript, p. 10

"Have no fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." (Ephesians 5:11)

Are These Works of Darkness?

God Says Reprove Them!
Patton Says Receive Them!

Does Truth Conflict?
"Receive" - "Do Not Receive"

"Receive one who is weak" (Romans 14:1,3)

Do Not Receive
"Have no fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness" (Ephesians 5:11; 2 John 9-11)

Those who place sinful brethren and practices in Romans 14 make truth seem ridiculous!

Forbearance or Open-Ended Fellowship?
Matthew 18:15ff; 1 Thessalonians 5:14

Truth teaches forbearance that has limitations
(Matthew 18:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:11-15)
"Be as Gentile;" "Have no company"

But Patton's Open-Ended Fellowship is based on "Receive" in Sinful Practice With "No Time Limit in Romans 14"

Apply to:

(Rules: Brother, Individual, Honest, Not Immorality, Does not Promote)

"Making Sense of Romans 14"
Steve Dewhirst

"We have been so resolute in assuming Romans 14 refers only to 'matters of indifference,' that we've robbed ourselves of one of the few passages that truly addresses how we may tolerate each other when we differ doctrinally. Anything addressed in God's word is a matter of doctrine/teaching. Genuine 'matters of indifference' deal with issues of which God's word says nothing at all, like what color carpet to put in the church building, etc."

(Emp. Mine, tr) (via Steve Wallace)


"Unity in Diversity"
Fellowship (Romans 14)

Ed Harrell - Christianity Magazine

"It is obvious that Christians sometimes disagree about spiritual instruction even in matters of considerable moral and doctrinal import. That behavior uniformly practiced throughout the history of Christianity is, I believe, the issue addressed in Romans 14."

"Romans 14 tolerates contradictory teaching and practices on important moral and doctrinal questions."

"The Bounds of Christian Unity," Christianity Magazine

Christianity Magazine
Ed Harrell - Unity in Diversity & Romans 14

November 1988

April 1989

May 1989

May 1990

If Fellowship Permits

"Matters of Considerable Moral and Doctrinal Import," and "Contradictory Teachings and Practices on Important Moral and Doctrinal Questions" ...

Where Can Fellowship Be Limited On:

Unity In Diversity
Bob Owen - Romans 14

"In Romans the fourteenth chapter, a similar principle is discussed.... And many brethren today have come along and have said, 'These passages can not be applied to any matter where the Scripture teaches on it. The only thing that they, that is, these passages can be used to answer, are matters of indifference.' Those are our terms. And I have heard this preached too. You know it. They say, 'It's only on matters of indifference.'"

Temple Terrace transcript, 1993

Unity In Diversity
Bob Owen - Romans 14

"I'm talking tonight about fellowshipping. And I'm doing it in a context of a series of discussions on the marriage question."

"So let me suggest in the Scriptures there are some cases discussed in detail where brethren had some differences of conviction. They differed in their belief. They differed in their practice. And yet they not only could continue to fellowship, but they were taught by Paul, the Lord through Paul, that they should continue to fellowship. 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 is usually the more familiar passage."

Temple Terrace transcript, 1993

Fellowship and Adulterous Marriages

"Is the divorce thing a matter of ... is it an issue? Sure it is. how should it be decided? Every local congregation is going to take each individual case and pass its own judgment what would be the impact in this congregation if we accept that couple. If it's going to be harmful to the group, then that group, they ought not accept them."

Bob Owen, Concord, NC, 2/19/95 (Q&A)

"But the person in a questionable marriage, everybody doesn't see that as an adulterous situation. Now we are back to a local church has to look at each situation and say, 'What is this condition and what would be the impact in our group?'"


Context: A question specifically addressed fellowship with Homer Hailey and his teaching on adulterous marriages.


"Is the divorce thing a matter it an issue? Sure it is. How should it be decided? Let me tell you how it ought to be decided. Every local congregation is going to take each individual case and pass its own judgment what would be the impact in this congregation if we accept that couple. If it's going to be harmful to the group, then that group, they ought not accept them. But I can't sit in Tampa, FL and write the prescription for all the situations that might come up on divorce and remarriage for all the churches in the country. And nobody else can, by the way. Some are trying to do it, but they can't do it."

(Emphasis mine, tr) (Bob Owen, 2/19/95, Concord, NC, "We differ, Can we Fellowship?")

Note: Reference is to an adulterous couple.

Local autonomy decides if it will fellowship them. No one else has the right to judge them. What about Premill., other doctrinal sins? Has God not "Prescribed" the answer? Would that church be viewed as a faithful church?

Resolving Differences Between Christians
Harry Pickup

"First of all, I said a moment ago, in the fellowship of Jesus, is it ever justified in tolerating some doctrinal disagreements? The 14th chapter of Romans teaches that as plainly, to me, as it can possibly be taught."

"Now the common interpretation of this book is that those who are 'strong' are correct in their doctrinal positions and the ones who are 'weak' are incorrect. I don't believe that will square with the teaching of that chapter."

"Now there are some doctrinal disagreements that can be tolerated within the fellowship of Jesus Christ."

Akron, OH, 5/22/97

"Romans 14 Allows Fellowship in Matters of Doctrinal Differences."


Same Exegesis

Accept Conseq?

Leroy Garrett



C. Ketcherside



Edward Fudge



A. Hardin



R. Shelly



Don Patton



Ed Harrell



Bob Owen



Harry Pickup





If we may have Fellowship with Hailey in his error on "The Alien,"

What About: (on MDR)

Olin Hicks

Roy Hill

E. C. Fuqua

Don Patton

Darrell Beane

Jack Freeman

Lowell Williams

J. D. Bales

Jerry Bassett

Don Bassett





Social Drinking


R-rated Movies


(If Ind,, not congregational, doesn't shame the group, not factional, local autonomy permits, "be assured in own mind," too many positions, lack of clarity, Romans 14")


(Markslist Discussion)

"I have watched brethren discuss and debate Romans 14 for several years now, and I have yet to see anyone articulate what I think this chapter teaches. Those who limit it to matters of indifference seem uniformly to refuse to apply it to issues of moral scruple such as social drinking. This illustrates, for me, the poverty of their view. In receiving a social drinker without casting judgment upon their opinions, I am NOT saying that I agree that what they are doing is right. I am only acknowledging that the matter is between them and God, and that I can have fellowship with them even though I do not agree with them. This does not make it a 'matter of indifference.' If matters very much whether that person is persuaded in their own mind that their actions abound to the glory of God and to the honor of the Lord. I see this as no different than accepting in fellowship someone who differs over the war issue."

Markslist Discussion, May 12, 1995

Note: This puts the non-drinker as being the weak Christian. The strong Christian is the drinker.

"...I can only surmise that one reason for resisting my view here is because some do not want to admit that they have no business judging other in certain matters in which they are prone to do so. Such as social drinking. Smoking. Mixed Swimming. Gambling. Etc. What distinguishes each and every one of these serious moral questions is that the judgments we make are based upon human reasoning and inference, not upon direct statements of divine judgment in scripture."

"...Now, I will be the first to admit that whether a particular kind of sexual activity falls into the category of 'porneia" may itself involve human judgment (I have in mind specifically sexual relations between the married, divorced, and remarried). But this is a judgment about what specific kinds of conduct constitute 'proneia.' It is not a judgment about whether 'porneia' is sin."

Markslist Discussion, May 13, 1995

Don't Be Misled!

The Issue Is Not:

It concerns whether or not People can Marry and Divorce for Every Cause and Still Be Right With God!

Would You Be Comfortable In A Congregation Where:

Are We Doomed To Divide On Every Issue?

In matters of faith, Unity; In matters of opinion (authorized liberty), liberty; In all things, charity

Is Unity Possible in Matters of Faith?
(Eph. 4:1-3; 1 Cor. 1:10ff; Jude 3; 2 Jno. 9-11; Gal. 1:6-9; Eph. 4:11-16)

Opinion Issues Have Not Divided Us:

Baptistry or Creek
Pitch Pipe or Turning Fork
Bible Class & Containers

Is Unity Possible on Divorce Issue?
One man, one woman, for life, with one exception

Opinion Issues Have Not Divided Us:
First To Courthouse?
Should Decree Include "Adultery"?

If No Pattern, Liberty is Allowed

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