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How to Treat God’s Masterpiece

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 14:19–23

God is making every believer into an eternal masterpiece to reflect His glory. That should lead us to treat one another with even greater care, deference, and devotion than we would give to a prized, but temporary, possession.


I have read that masterpiece paintings are linked to wireless networks that can instantly alert security if someone tries to lift it from the wall or even touch it. A little sensor attached to the frame can send regular reports to monitors that include the temperature and humidity of the gallery.

I have also read that there some 600 authentic Stradivarius violins in the world today. Many are never used at all, for fear they might be stolen. Many are safely hidden in bank vaults and private safes today—highly insured and well-guarded.

If the world goes to such lengths to protect things that are temporary, how should we take care of people—the eternal masterpieces of God’s creation?

As we sail back into Romans 14, that is exactly what Paul deals with as we arrive at verse 20. Here Paul writes, “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.”

These debatable, questionable issues—gray matters—that he has been talking about are not nearly as important as believers, whom Paul describes as the work of God. You are God’s canvass, His masterpiece. And I assure you, the effort Antonio Stradivari put into making his famous violins is nothing compared to the effort God is putting into you.

Paul gives us three ways we can help guard our fellow Christians, especially—the handiwork of God.

First, treat other Christians with a spirit of surrender. Now you might wonder what you are supposed to surrender. Back in verse 19, Paul answers: “So then let us pursue what makes for peace.” Paul wants us to press toward whatever it takes to bring peace between us and other believers.

That means surrendering whatever is necessary to achieve peace. Of course, we do not surrender doctrinal clarity or moral purity. Paul is still speaking in the context of these questionable, uncertain, gray areas of life. We need to do all we can not to argue and divide over them but to reach a settlement of peace and unity.

That might even mean giving up your right to get even. That is a hard command to obey, isn’t it? Most of us cannot wait to get even.

Some of you have been hurt in unbelievable ways. A woman came to visit at my church office, and she shared her testimony of how years earlier, as a twelve-year-old girl, she was molested by a gang of three men. Then later on, she was abused again as a fifteen-year-old by a family member. But today, years later, she is a joyful believer; and a big part of her joy was learned over time as she surrendered her right to get even and determined to leave vengeance in the hands of God. Sometimes you cannot arrange a peaceful solution with others, but you can have God’s peace within.

You cannot turn the clock back, but you can turn your heart forward. You need to surrender your right to get even, forgetting those things that are behind and then pressing forward (Philippians 3:13-14).

Second, offer spiritual reinforcement to others. Again, in verse 19, Paul writes, “Let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” The Greek word for “upbuilding” literally refers to building a house. Here the idea is that of building up other believers, reinforcing their lives spiritually so that they grow up in Christ.

What kind of tools do we use on God’s masterpieces? Destructive tools like a critical spirit or a lack of patience, or constructive tools like encouragement and a giving spirit? Beloved, we are either in the business of demolishing or constructing the lives of those whom God has placed in our lives.

Now third, treat people with proper caution. In verse 20, Paul writes this:

Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.

Again, back to doubtful issues like food choices, we should be careful not to tear down what God is wanting to build up, especially over something like a gray area—a questionable issue, a debatable practice.

So, do not flaunt your freedom; do not go swinging your liberty around. You might end up knocking down younger Christians around you.

Paul writes in verse 21, “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.” We might paraphrase it this way: “Be careful. Younger, weaker believers are a work in progress. Build them up; do not argue them down!”

Do not be careless around them; be cautious and careful. They are the masterpieces of God’s handiwork.

In the last two verses of Romans 14, Paul takes this thought even deeper. He begins by writing, “The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God” (verse 22).

Is Paul suggesting we should never share our faith with others? Of course not! He has already told us, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

Remember the context; Paul is referring to gray areas where the Bible is not clear or specific about some activity or practice. “Faith” here refers to an expression of your confidence in the decisions you have made. Paul’s instruction is to keep those personal decisions between you and God. That is, do not go around setting other Christians straight in their faith-decisions if they are not in agreement with yours!

Again, Paul is effectively saying, “Do not impose your convictions, your preferences, your conscience, on others.” In fact, unless you are asked about them, you might be better off keeping them to yourself, or as Paul writes here, “between yourself and God.”

It might be helpful to point out three different levels of what we might call our decision-making process in these gray areas of life.

Level one is a personal preference. This applies to your personal feelings, tastes, and background. Scripture does not speak about them one way or another, and you might even change your mind over time; but for now, they seem to be the right and appropriate decision for you and your family.

Level two moves from a personal preference to a personal certainty. This could be defined as an application of Scripture to your decision. While the Bible does not explicitly address that particular issue, you believe the weight of Scripture leans in favor of your decision about it.

The important thing to remember is that other sincere believers might feel that the same biblical instruction leads them to a different application. At that point, it is not up to you to argue them into agreeing with you.

Paul writes in verse 22, “Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves.” In other words, “Happy is the believer who does not feel guilty for his decision, because he has prayerfully approved it in his life.”

Level three is a conviction based on a clear biblical command. The Bible speaks to a lot of issues, like fleeing from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18). You do not have to pray about that. That is not a questionable decision you have to make—it is crystal clear! We can draw another command from Philippians 4:6, which essentially says, “Have a thankful spirit.” That is not an easy command to apply, is it? But it is clear!

Now perhaps you are asking, “Can I do something if the Bible does not specifically condemn it?” Here is Paul’s answer in Romans 14:23:

But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

So, if you are in doubt about it, if your conscience is troubling you about it, do not go there! That is a built-in warning to slow down and pray about it some more.

If you are in doubt, don’t!

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