For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. Romans 14:18
Approved – Who is acceptable to God and approved by men? To answer this question, we need to look at the Greek word dokimos. It means, “to be certified as completely real.” It is not about tolerance. It is about perfect conformity to an accepted standard. To be approved is to be recognized as the real McCoy. Paul writes to fellow believers. He instructs them to live in such a way that they will be acceptable to God and found to be the real deal by men. But his instructions don’t make any sense at all if he thinks that the approval needs to come from fellow believers. If I am in the house of the Lord, I am already approved by my brothers and sisters and I am certainly acceptable to God. In order for Paul’s exhortation to make sense, we must recognize that the approval must come from outside the circle of believers. In other words, we must live in such a way that those who would be critics are forced to admit we are the genuine article. Our lives must give no offense to those who are looking for an excuse to reject our beliefs. Paul isn’t talking about gaining the approval of fellow believers. He is talking about gaining the approval of those who don’t believe. In the context of first century Rome, Paul is talking about his fellow Jews who have not accepted Yeshua as the Messiah.
But we don’t live in the Rome in the first century. What does this mean for us? The first thing to notice is that Paul is teaching about service to the Messiah, the Christ. This isn’t optional! We are responsible for the salvation of others. That doesn’t mean we “save” them. But it does mean that we are required to live in such a way that they will not view us as hypocrites. If we wish to serve Yeshua, we must meet the standard set by God and men. That standard is Torah (Paul would never have meant anything else). That’s why Paul can say, “Against these things there is no law.” We are not to live with such inconsiderate arrogance that we use our “freedom” to damage the witness of our claims to serve the living God. We could claim our salvation sets us free (whatever that means), but if we are going to emulate the Master, our freedom will be relinquished in an act of selfless humility (just as Yeshua Himself gave up His freedom to become a slave – Philippians 2). Do you want the mind of Christ? Then act like He acted. Give up your “rights” and take on a life that will magnify Him. Live with such purity that men have no choice but to approve you and the God you serve.
Within the household of God, all are equal. All are redeemed sinners, unworthy recipients of God’s grace. All are called to humble obedience. All are adopted children of the King. But that also means that all are expected to shine in ways that attract others to the King. There is no room for displays of superiority. The goal is to attract through humility.
So tell me, are you living in such a way that those who do not believe are drawn to YHWH because you are the real deal?
Topical Index: Romans 14:18, approve, dokimos