I tell people all the time that the key to living life in Christ is faith. Romans 14:23 says,”. . . whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” So, you don’t have to take my word for it. When I teach with this passage I make a big deal of Paul’s use of the word “whatever”. Whatever means anything and “proceeds” means “start from” or “out of”. What this means is that anything that does not begin in faith is a sin.
This cannot be stressed too much. It doesn’t matter what one does, no matter how “‘good” it seems to be, if it does not proceed from faith first, it is a sin. Yea, there are some pretty deep theological implications in this statement, but we don’t need to go there at this time. Suffice it to say that faith in Christ Jesus is absolutely necessary to being actually moral. Faith being necessary in order for any action to not be sinful.
Beyond that, however, faith trumps even obedience. This is not to say that obedience is not important. Of course it is. Obedience is crucial to living in Christ. How can some one say that he or she is a follower of Jesus Christ if they don’t obey His Commands. What I’m saying is that even obedience to God‘s Word is sinful if one’s obedience is merely obedience without being driven by faith. I’ve heard many people say such things as, “I do (or don’t do) ___________ because it says to (or not) in God’s Word.”
I’m the last person to say not to follow God’s Word or anything, but, again, Paul places this powerful concept in exactly this kind of context. His concern is that people have a tendency to put the cart before the horse. What then happens is that actions and inactions become sources of judgement. His point is that we must allow the Second Great Comandment to love our neighbors to rule our actions. We must place others before ourselves and to faithfully choose behaviors that bring others to faith or greater faith in Jesus Christ. If doing something that some may frown upon will create a relationship between another and Christ, then that action (at least in this case) is the definition of faith not sin. Likewise if NOT doing something that is perfectly fine to do will bring some one into relationship to Christ then performing that otherwise “good” action is sinful.
I think Paul’s basic point is that, as every good teacher knows, objective is king. In the Way of Jesus, the over riding objective is always the salvation of others and after that the discipleship of others. In other words, bringing others to Christ Jesus and then raising them up in Jesus. My phrase (and others, no doubt, use it too) is Knowing and Growing in Christ. That’s the essence of what I’ve been given to teach.
P.S. Feel free to leave a comment or jot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.