Human Responsibility & The Will of God

How do you reconcile Romans 14:23 which basically says that if we do anything when we have doubt about whether we should do it or not than it's a sin, when you said in your sermon that "If our goal and attitude is correct then we should choose as we please when scripture is silent". It seems scripture is not silent if we have any doubt at all.


That is a good question.  In the sermon I tried to indicate that there are a lot of issues that the Scripture does not directly address, but which still require decisions.  This would include areas like "Do I change jobs or stay at my present one?", "Which college do I attend?", or "Which car should I buy?"  I was trying to give a biblical model of making wise decisions in all areas of life, including these "non-commanded areas."

I did not mention Romans 14:23 due to time constraints, but it is an important text to consider.  In context, Paul is discussing maters on which Christians might disagree such as eating meat sacrificed to idols, drinking alcohol, and celebrating one day as more important than another.  He says that there is actually nothing wrong with eating meat sacrificed to an idol, or drinking alcohol, but some can not do so with a clean conscience.  They think that to eat such meat is sin, and they can not eat it without doubt in their heart regarding their action.  In such situations, Paul declares that to act with such doubts is sin.  It is not the activity itself, but the doubt itself that causes the sin.  Thus, we must choose to participate or not in such activities based on our understanding of Scripture and whether we can do so in faith.  If we can not eat in faith, we must abstain.

Relating this text to the subject of making decisions, I would note a few things.  First, if we are contemplating participating in something, but our conscience nags us and we are filled with doubt, then we should personally abstain, at least until we have resolved the matter in our mind based upon further study and reflection.  We should only participate if we can do so in faith.

Second, some decisions which we discussed on Sunday need to be considered in light of this text.  For example, if I have real doubt as to whether I should buy a car because I am not sure I can afford it, it would be best to not buy the car.  To buy in doubt would violate Romans 14:23.  However, many decisions that we were considering on Sunday can not really be related to this text.  For example, if I ask, "Which college should I go to this fall?" I must make a decision - even if I have doubts.  To not go is as much as decision as going - and I am nagged by doubts in either case.  Or, "Should I change jobs?" - either choice is a definitive decision.  If I have doubt about which is better, I can not choose to do nothing - for that is a decision to stay.  In such cases I will simply have to make a decision using the principles of wisdom I tried to lay out in the Scripture.

Third, we must learn to distinguish between real doubt and the discomfort we may feel as we progressively train our conscience to better align with God's word.  For example, some believers have thought that God must guide them in every single decision, and that they can not do anything until they "know God's will."  I have shown that this is an unbiblical conception of the will of God and of being led by the Spirit.  Yet, people just learning this may truly understand it with their mind, know that it is biblical, and yet still feel guilty pangs of conscience when they make decisions without specific "guidance" from God.  However, this is not the doubt of which Paul speaks in Romans 14:23 - it is simply the residual effects of having an improperly trained conscience, which will abate over time as we walk in the new truth we have learned.  In such cases, we must walk in what we now know to be the truth, and tell the false guilt to be silent.