Proper 19 · Romans 14:1–12 · September 17, 2017
Editor’s note: the following homiletical help is taken from David Schmitt’s sermon series “God’s Greater Story: A Sermon Series on Romans 6–14,” which is available for download here.
By David Schmitt
This morning, Paul’s words to us are strange. Strange, in that he joins two very different things together. In just a few short verses, Paul moves from talking about food to talking about the return of Christ.
Paul begins by talking about eating. Not eating as in partaking of the Lord’s Supper but eating as in consuming daily food. Some Christians in Rome are eating only vegetables and others are eating all things, without any discrimination. This matter is so small and so specific that scholars today have trouble understanding it.
It seems there was an argument about whether or not Roman Christians should keep Jewish food laws. Could they eat meat that was not kosher? If in doubt, should they abstain from meat all together? So, on the one hand, Paul is writing about something small and temporal. He is delving into the details of our daily dishes.
Then, in just a few verses, Paul speaks about that which is large and eternal. He asks us to remember that we all shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ. We will give an account to him of our lives. Here, Paul’s vision expands. He sees the return of Christ and the Last Judgment. This judgment embraces life, all of life, both now and forever.
In just a few short verses, Paul moves from the food on your plate to the judgment seat of Christ. From the small and the temporal to the large and the eternal. What does eating have to do with the judgment seat of Christ? How are these two joined together?
For Paul, the return of Christ is not something distant from God’s people. As Paul writes, “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we died to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom 14:7–8). In baptism, God has claimed you as his own. He has joined you to Christ. This Christ has risen and ascended and promises to come again. Until that day when he returns, you are his. Your daily life has been woven into his kingdom and his loving rule is expressed in the details of your daily life. Paul wants Christians to know that God has woven his loving rule in the details of our daily lives.