My daughter, Katelynn, who is eleven, wants to start wearing make-up. I have a rule: No make-up at all until she is twelve. My wife does not agree with me. She thinks I am being legalistic. I can’t help it. That is just the way I think. I can justify it in ten different ways with my hands tied behind my back. The problem is that none of my justification is really black or white. It is one of those things that the Scripture does not speak on. My wife’s argument makes sense too. However, I have scruples about the issue. These scruples bend my understanding and create their own passions. One more year and the scruples will be gone as Katelynn will be twelve.

Make-up is not the issue. I don’t want to go there. We all have scruples. That is not really a technical theological term, though it is in the dictionary. This is how it is defined: “An uneasy feeling arising from conscience or principle that tends to hinder action.” However, when it comes to our faith, scruples are hard to deal with. You have these militating  terms: grace and liberty.

When grace and liberty clash with “scruples,” more often than not, unfortunately, the scruples win. Why? Because we are so quick to sacrifice our liberty for the sake of the “weaker brethren.” Yes, this “weaker brethren” card is often pulled and legalists love it. In fact, it is used most often by those who are legalist wearing the disguise of those who are free. It is not that this card is illegitimate—it is not as if there are not true weaker brethren—but it is abused and the result is slavery.

I remember Chuck Swindoll talking about this saying: “Be careful, there are some people out there who are ‘professional weaker brethren.’”

“Kristie, I have scruples with this make-up thing. Maybe I cannot find a verse or a solid principle upon which to rest my theological head, but you need to be sensitive  and understanding to my hang-ups for the sake of my spirituality. One more year and my scruples will be gone.”

I highlighted some key words that legalists will use to manipulate the situation. “Sensitive,” “understanding,” “hang-ups,” “sake,” and most importantly, “my.”

From the other side, liberty is so often sacrificed.

“I don’t go to the movies because I don’t want to cause anyone to stumble.”

Often implied translation: “You should give up your liberty too if you want to be spiritual like me.”

“I don’t ever drink alcohol because a weaker brethren might see me and fall into sin.”

Often implied translation:I have scruples with this issue and you should too.”

“If someone saw me befriending this person, they may think I am condoning their actions. Therefore, I sacrifice my liberty for the sake of their frailty.”

Often implied translation: “I can’t be friends with people who are that sinful.”

Okay, to the passage: Romans 14.

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions” (Rom 14:1 ESV).

“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. 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” (Rom 14:1 ESV).

You see, here Paul is talking about one who is “weak in faith” who has scruples over the food that someone else was eating. Some were vegetarians and did not eat meat at all (probably because of its connection to the idol temples). They thought that it was morally wrong to eat meat. Paul makes it clear that it is not wrong in and of itself: “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself” (14:1a). However, because someone thinks it is wrong, for them it may be: “But it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean” (14:1). Therefore, when one of these “veggie only” guys is around, be careful or you might cause him to stumble (i.e. he will see you eating meat, and do what he believes to be wrong).

However, we can take this too far. I don’t think we are obligated to bow our liberty to everyone who has a problem with our actions. A “weaker brother” is one who is truly weaker, not just one who has a misguided interpretation of things. He is weaker because he has not been educated in these issues. You must understand, he is not supposed to or expected to stay “weaker.” Eventually, he is suppose to become stronger. Unfortunately, far too often these weaker brethren realize their power and become “professional weaker brethren.”

Don’t misread Paul. He certainly had no desire to compromise his liberty. We must temper the Romans passage with  Galatians:

“But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you” (2:4-5).

These “false brethren” should have played the “weaker brethren” card.

“Hey, Paul, you cannot do that or I will stumble.”

“Paul, what if there is someone who has scruples with what you are doing? Do you want them to stumble?”

In fact, they may have played these cards. However, Paul did not put up with it. Not for a second. Why? Because when you do, the Gospel is lost. Notice Paul said he did not subject to them even for an hour “so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.” Without liberty, there is no good news. Bondage only begets bondage. The Gospel is about being free.

Think about this: If we were to give in to every so-called weaker brethren what would the result be? We would always be bowing to the least common denominator. All actions would be off-limits. Think of all the things people have scruples with:

1. Going to movies
2. Dancing
3. “Mixed” bathing
4. Caffeine
5. Tobacco
6. Reading Harry Potter
7. Watching Glen Beck (because he is a Mormon)
8. Reading C.S. Lewis (because he denied inerrancy)
9. Sending my kids to public schools
10. Wearing flip flops to church
11. Drinking alcohol
12. Reading any Bible other than the KJV
13. Listening to Rock music
14. Going to church on Sat rather than Sun
15. Making a purchase that others think is a sinful waste of money
16. Playing video games that have blood
17. Taking anti-depressants
18. Women wearing pants
19. Saying “oh my God”
20. Going to a “seeker” church

For all of these things, I really do have representatives in my life right now. Every one of them would be offended if I crossed their line. If I were to follow this “no-offense” policy, I would be completely immobile in my life and actions. So would you.

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1 NAS).

We need to be sensitive, but not to the point where we are simply fueling others’ faulty understanding and legalism. People will control you to the degree that you let them. If you allow this to go on without discernment, not only will you be immobile, but you will have lost your liberty. Lose liberty, lose the Gospel.

Believe it or not, there are people out there who hate our liberty and will do anything to make us lose it. Beware of “professional weaker brethren” (and those who yield to them).

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    106 replies to "Beware of “Professional Weaker Brethren”"

    • nancypants

      Dave, above that passage it reads, “8 See to it that no one takes you captive by nphilosophy and oempty deceit, according to phuman tradition, according to the qelemental spirits1 of the world, and not according to Christ.” The sabbath as an institution was set up by God at creation.

      I believe this passage is not referring to whether or not the observance of the sabbath (which was relocated to Sunday after the resurrection in the very early days of the early church and established in scripture by the use of the term “the Lord’s Day”) is necessary, but rather more along the lines of how the pharisees sat and waited for Jesus to heal someone on the sabbath (or do anything they had deemed not okay for sabbath activity — for a modern equivalent, think of those who would suggest you are to not have any sort of fun on the sabbath), or eat with unclean hands, or sit with sinners, etc. Considering the things it is grouped with I do not believe this is a question of “what day is the Lord’s day?” or indeed *if* it should be observed (as this would strike out yet another of the commandments which Jesus by no means eradicated but rather expanded) but rather whether or not we are creating a new law or set of laws as the pharisees and ascetics were doing?

      If it truly does not matter then this would essentially mean that every day is the same and we should just as easily make any day of the week the day that we gather corporately as a body. But the new testament is clear that the Lord’s Day was a particularly recognized day in the early church by the apostles themselves. Therefore it is wiser, I believe, to assume that there is still a certain day set aside for the purpose of worship rather than to assume that the sabbath no longer applies.

      What do you do with this verse? I Cor. 5:12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?

    • Dave Z

      I believe the Law, including the Ten Commandments, has been nailed to the cross. It is no longer the source (really, it never was) of our righteousness. I think Jesus elaborated on it to hammer home the idea that we cannot meet that standard – to make it more impossible. Our only hope is Grace received through faith.

      If we’re to be keeping the Commandments, how about circumcision?

      I’ve run into people before that claim that Sunday is somehow “officially” established in the NT as the “new” sabbath, but I have never heard a convincing argument.

      1 Cor. 5 is about church discipline, which I believe to be an uncommon, last option for a defiant believer. And Paul gives a list of situations in which it could be implemented. Sabbath-breaking is certainly not among them.

      I think we’re on completely different pages here.

    • Dave Z

      If it truly does not matter then this would essentially mean that every day is the same and we should just as easily make any day of the week the day that we gather corporately as a body.

      That’s exactly what I think.

    • Michael T.

      First sentence of my post 45 should have read “I think you are maybe missing the point that CMP is MAKING.” I used missing for the last word by mistake, however I think people got the jist anyhow.

    • Susan

      Thanks for clearing that up, Michael. I was thinking, “What? He thinks CMP is missing the point?”

    • Hodge


      I don’t agree that we are to leave the weaker brother weaker, but Paul is addressing whether we are to try to instantly make him stronger by pushing him into something against his conscience. Giving a steak to a baby will kill him. That’s why Paul says not to destroy him by pushing your practices on him. Leave him alone. Let him drink milk and slowly move on to softer foods and perhaps through the continual preaching of the Word the Spirit of God will bring him to a place where he can eat the steak. But maybe he will remain on softer foods. Since he is trying to please the Lord, there is no rush. He’s not in sin for not partaking. By saying that something is wrong with him and trying to “reeducate” him so that he complies to the “maturity” of the stronger brother is to go against Paul’s very point here. He is trying to please the Lord just like the stronger brother. Therefore, let no one judge the servant of another. He belongs to the Lord. Let him grow according to God’s plan, not yours.
      BTW, Paul seems to indicate in 1 Cor that there may be good reasons to refrain from eating meat sacrificed to idols, so the weaker brother may avoid pitfalls more often than the stronger simply because he is more cautious to partake.

    • Hodge

      BTW, “stronger” and “weaker” are in reference to conscience and discipline of oneself. It may be that self control is an aspect of godliness, but one can be naturally disciplined in mind without being godly. There is simply nothing to suggest, therefore, that the stronger brother is the more godly one. Paul seems clear to say that both are pursuing righteousness and are attempting to please the Lord.

    • Paul Dare

      Very good post. The church needs constantly to be wrestling through the issues of liberty, strong and weak in 1 Cor 8-10 and Romans 14.

      I have to align myself with Billy’s comments here. We ought to be careful and not so quick to want the weaker among us to “grow up” and get with the program. Yes, we don’t want to enable, leaving them to never mature in their understanding of freedom, but the post seems to be written with an eyes-rolling kind of irritated tone. Almost to imply that these weaker brothers are just necessary evils, thorns in our flesh.

      I’m not saying you tried (or even that you did) write the post this way. It just seems to be really leaning heavily in favor of those who understand freedom and it seemed to make light of Paul’s strong language that he would “never” eat this or drink that if it made a weaker brother stumble.

      I also(and I know this is short, so much more could be said) don’t see how Galatians can be pitted against the teaching in Romans 14. Galatians is about the core of the gospel and legalism’s attack on it. Romans 14 is about life in a Jew/Gentile church. I don’t think Paul there was saying that either the weaker or the stronger was coming against the Gospel. Otherwise his language would’ve been just as strong (“let him be accursed!”)

      great blog, good post. my two cents. 🙂

    • Jay

      I need to jump in on the Glenn Beck issue on social justice. I am a Glenn Beck supporter, I watch his show and have read many of the books he recommends. His primary message is don’t believe me, find out for yourself in what you believe. Do the research yourself and find out what you really believe and why you believe it. He says find out what your pastor or church means by social justice. Don’t just look at the words but look at the implications of what they mean.

      Social Justice is a good and noble thing. We should strive to help the poor, eliminate discrimination, and treat each other with dignity and respect. Social Justice is also a very heavy component of Liberation Theology which is a perversion of the Gospel. Liberation Theology replaces sin with oppression. It also replaces the need for personal salvation through Jesus with group salvation when then oppressor has atoned for all of the sins of oppression perpetrated against its victims (the repressed). This type of theology promotes class against class: rich vs. poor, whites vs. blacks, men vs. women, straight vs. gay, etc.
      So, when personal salvation gets tied to collective salvation some interesting problems arise. For me, the individual to be saved, the group must be saved. Then the group must be forced into atoning for the acts they committed when they were oppressor so that I can be saved. So, how does this happen? Public pressure, governmental policy, new laws, maybe

      In an interview, Jim Wallis said very explicitly that the message of the Gospel is “absolutely redistributive and it must be”. What does that mean? Who decides? Is this part of group salvation? These are questions that need to be asked and answered.

    • Jay

      I need to jump in on the Glenn Beck issue on social justice. I am a Glenn Beck supporter, I watch his show and have read many of the books he recommends. His primary message is don’t believe me, find out for yourself in what you believe. Do the research yourself and find out what you really believe and why you believe it. He says find out what your pastor or church means by social justice. Don’t just look at the words but look at the implications of what they mean.

    • […] Michael Patton deals with the professional weaker Christian. […]

    • Susan

      Good points, Hodge. Your comments also caution us toward humility. The ‘stronger/weaker’ language can tend to turn into ‘I’m more advanced’ ‘I get it’ arrogance in our sin-prone hearts. The key, I think, is putting others before ourselves. There is a willingness to sacrifice (and realize that the sacrifice is no big deal in light of the needs of the other). Nurturing and loving.

    • nancypants

      But Dave, you are clearly wrong — The Lord’s Day. They would not have used this term in saying, “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day” if he meant Tuesday, or Friday or Saturday. It was a specific delineation. You may believe that all days are same same same. But you are actually incorrect. We know that all our days belong to Him and we are to honor Him each day of the week but there is still a special day of worship which we set aside to honor Him in communal worship.

      Your argument is then that Jesus put an end to fourth commandment?

      What about what Jesus said, “For I did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it”?

      If every day is same same same, then we can safely assume there are only perhaps 9 commandments left for us which is a risky assumption to make since the idea of a sabbath day (even for God who actually *needs* no rest) was instituted at creation.

    • nancypants

      You are right, Dave, that the Ten Commandments are a high bar that we can never reach by our own power. But if Christ’s death did anything to the ten commandments and us, it is that we are now able to obey whereas before we could offer nothing.

      He frees us from present sin.

      His grace is IN the keeping of his law. He gave His law as a gracious gift to His people, letting them know that this is how to live a full and blessed life. It is not that we now believe that obedience to the law to the T is going to save us, but we must see that His death and resurrection killed the POWER of sin. It has no ultimate power over us. He did not nail the ten commandments to the cross. He nailed the transgressions of those laws, which expose to us the most elemental parts of God’s holy character and heart for us, of those whom He has called His own.

      Where did the Israelites come from when they were given the 10 Commandments? From what state? Egypt. Slavery. Do you think God brought them out of slavery and into freedom in order to enslave them to the law? No, He brought them out of slavery and showed them a more gracious way to live. And yet, like all of us, they were unable to do it perfectly. This does not mean that the standard itself was flawed and therefore needing to be crucified. The breakage of the standard needed to be crucified.

      “So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.”

      Suggesting that the 10 commandments are null and void now because of what Jesus did is to completely miss the point of the cross and its true power, that to free you from both the power of sin now and the ultimate condemnation of sin,…

    • nancypants

      No, I Cor. 5 is not exclusively about church discipline. It is integrated fully into the letter which is addressed “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” and read widely amongst the churches. I don’t see that that passage is specifically addressed to the elders with regard to church discipline.

    • Dave Z

      Nancy, I don’t have a lot of time to put into this discussion, but I’ll do what I can.

      Regarding the days of the week – you have to balance scripture with scripture and understand what those scriptures mean and don’t mean. For example, you mention “The Lord’s Day” Obviously you think it means Sunday. But where does the Bible tell us that? Well, it doesn’t. The term could mean the anniversary of the resurrection – Easter. It could mean the original Sabbath – Saturday. Where exactly does it say John was referring to Sunday? It’s the only use of the term in the NT, so we have no other texts to shed additional light on the term.

      But let’s say it does mean Sunday. That’s the traditional position, even though it has no direct scriptural support. Still, there is no command for us to meet on that day. The closest we get is one scriptural mention of gathering on the first day of the week, in Acts 20:7, but there is no command for us to do so. We also have examples of the disciples going to the synagogue on the Sabbath. Acts 17 say Paul went on three Sabbaths. Matter of fact, it says that was his custom! If you want to take the Acts 20 verse as an example/command, why not do the same with Paul’s explictly stated custom? Do you go to synagogue?

      Furthermore, we have Paul’s arguments in Romans 14. He says “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” He does NOT say “the second guy is wrong.” What a great opportunity to correct an error! But Paul says nothing. Why not? Maybe because it’s not an error?

      Then when we add in Col. 2, we see even more clearly that we’re not to allow people to judge us over things like Sabbath days or religions festivals. It’s in that passage that Paul speaks of the written code (including the 10 Commandments) being cancelled by Christ and nailed to the cross, as I mentioned earlier.

      To be…

    • mbaker

      I think it is more about what the Lord considers sacred. And to me, every day I live, as a 68 old person with chronic health problems is sacred, because of His grace, whether I am the weaker or stronger brother.

    • Dave Z

      Speaking of the Law and the Prophets, Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” And so he did. The law is fulfilled, like a contract that has been completed. It is no longer binding. Paul says it was cancelled. It’s like a cancelled check. It’s done its job and is a part of history.

      The scary part of thinking the 10 Commandments are still the source of our righteousness is that Paul says so clearly (Galatians 5) that if we insist on keeping the law, we have fallen away from grace. He says that if anyone allows himself to be circumcised (representing the requirements of the law) that he is obligated to obey the whole law.

      The Sabbath was part of the requirements of the law, and as a requirement, it has passed away. Each day is the same. Each day is the Lord’s Day.

    • Billy

      Dave Z,

      No one here has said that the 10 Commandments are the source of our righteousness. Rather, the 10 Commandments reveal to us the things that God considered to be an affront to Him in the Old Testament. My question to you is, Has God changed? If not, why would you, as one who has been saved by his atoning sacrifice on the cross, want to grieve Him by continuing to breaking His commandments? It should grieve us every time we do break His commandments. It should offend us every time it is suggested that we condone others breaking His commandments. He is, after all, our Father. The 10 Commandments aren’t our way of earning favor from God. Rather, they are our guide to understanding the character of our God and how we might better honor Him and show Him that we love Him. Conversely, breaking His commandments shows that we do not love Him. The apostle John makes this very clear in his first epistle. He states over and over again that breaking God’s commandments is a sign that you do not know or love Him.


    • Dave Z

      Billy writes:
      “No one here has said that the 10 Commandments are the source of our righteousness. ”

      True, no one has specifically said that, but the implication is there, as if to say “We are righteous when we keep the Sabbath and unrighteous when we do not.” if that is not the intent, then why bring it up at all?

      I agree that the way we love God is by keeping his commandments, and I do not advocate freedom to steal or cheat on our spouses, but regarding the day of the week, Jesus reminds us that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” And the term Sabbath covered more than just the seventh day of the week. As I understand the term (I am not a Hebrew scholar) the core meaning is “rest” or “holiday,” not “the day you’re supposed to go to church,” though that became the custom.

      If that were the meaning, it creates another problem for me. I’m a pastor. Sunday is certainly not a day of rest for me. More often than not, it’s the most intense day of the week. How am I to deal with that? If the Lord’s Day is a sabbath, holy to the Lord, and we (including church leadership) are to do no work, what will our services be like?

      Also, when we make it a mark of righteousness (even if we do not regard it as the source), why stop there? IOW, what makes the 10 Commandments different than the rest of the law? If we should keep the 10, what gives us permission to break the others, such as the prohibition about eating shellfish or pork? For example, do you wear phylacteries? No? Why not? It was one of God’s commands. Do we not grieve him when we break those commandments? I mean, where do we stop? It’s either all or nothing.

      To summarize regarding the Sabbath, I see Paul’s comments in Col. 2:16 and Rom 14:5 as (for lack of a better term) “flagship” verses, along with Jesus’ comments about the Sabbath.

    • Dave Z

      Quick add, I’m not even saying that we should not have a sabbath in our week, a day of rest. I think it’s healthy, spiritually, physically and emotionally. But Nancy seems to insist we keep a particular day, Sunday. And that’s where I differ. I do not feel there is anything in the New Testament that officially “moves” the Sabbath.

      I guess if we focus on what could be called the principle, or the point of the 4th Commandment, a day of rest, then I’d say, yes, that should be a part of our week. But I’m not picky on which day. And my righteousness is not based on it. As I said earlier, every day is the Lord’s Day.

    • Vicki DeArmey

      What is the big difference between being 11 or 12 years of age and wearing make-up? To me it is the message that wearing make-up gives to those around you, especially boys. My 3 yr. old grand daughter is fascinated when she watches me put some mascara or eye shadow on to brighten up my fading 64 yr. old eyes or a bit of blush to give me a little more color in my cheeks. Once in a while she will ask me to put some on her and I do. I also tell her she is beautiful just the way she is. I tell her that one day, when she is old like me she might need a little make-up to brighten up her face, but now, she is just the way she is suppose to be, natural and the way God made her to be. I think our girls of this generation need to understand that wearing make-up is making a statement. The statement is, “I watch models, singers, dancer, and actors that wear make-up and I have to be like them to be liked and accepted.” What they don’t know is that on a normal basis these people do not wear that much make-up. It is for their job. We as parents must tell our young girls that they are beautiful just the way they are. We must tell them that most boys do not like girls wearing make-up or nail polish. I have 4 sons and they tell me these things. If a boy only likes a girl for the way she looks and especially one that is overly made up, then he likes her because she is a “show case girl” and he will drop her like a hot potato when he is tired of her. Our young girls need to hear from a very young age that they are fresh, and natural and that wearing make-up too young is taking all that freshness away and making them look hard and unnatural. My father set 16 as the age we could wear lip-stick and I thought that was too old, but now I am thankful he stuck to that. I have had plenty of years to wear make-up since. What I thought interesting about the issue was that nothing was said about the daughter wanting to wear make-up at age 11, just the parents.

    • Brenda L.

      Christian Parents are obligated to raise their children in the admonition of the Lord. Prov. 22:6 is very clear, raise up a child in the way it should go. In addition, Exodus 20 tells children to honor thy father and mother. It does not give specifics, just commands that children are to honor their parents. The Bible also commands that children obey their parents. Wives are to submit to the authority of the husband, who is the spirirtual head of the home. These point to direct obedience to God. When one fails to follow the commandments of the Lord, one has actively chosen to sin and ends up outside the will of God. When one does those things that are pleasing in the eyes of the Lord, not only is God Blessed, He in turn will Bless us. The Bible staes in the Book of Samuel, that God honors those who honor Him. My husband and I decided that our daughter would not be allowed to wear make-up until she was 16, and this rule was enforced, regardless of her arguments, which fell on deaf ears. Sometimes, parents allow their children to lose the innocence of childhood and move into adulthood without having the benefit of the wisdom of adulthood. I suggest, “Parents, get a grip and do not bow to the pressure of everyone-else is allowing their children to do it.” In otherwords, parents do not let your children bully you for the purpose of doing what everyone in their social circle is doing.
      My husband and I did not bow to that bullying/pressue and we have a beautiful Christ centered young women who grew into adulthood and was not thrust there by ill contrived social mores.

    • Christopher

      Beware of those who use the term legalistic, it is usually a license to stay in sin. “Liberty is the freedom to be a slave to righteousness”
      “Mixed bathing” “drinking” “Dancing”. Michael how can you have a website called ‘Reclaiming the mind” . Christ has set us free not to listen to the devils music and reading books on witchcraft.
      You are preaching a different Jesus then of the Bible. And you are not using a biblical term for legalism.
      I had the “mind” to do those very things you list. Then I got save and a “new mind’

      2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial (Christian Rock)? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel (Movies where the actor is not saved)? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

      Titus 3:3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.

      Galatians 5:9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.


      Ephesians 5:3-6 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive…

    • […] Patton gives some sage advice and a helpful dichotomy: Beware of the sneaky legalists who work as Professional Weaker Brethren. (OK, it’s not exactly about worship, although it has obvious applications there, but it […]

    • Michael T.

      You ever hear of the term “non-sequitar”? It’s a term used in logical argumentation to denote where a conclusion “does not follow” from the premises or facts presented. You have quoted Scripture passages, but not a single one of them supports you’re conclusion that participating in a single thing on the list presented by CMP is in fact sin. In addition you state that he is not using the term “legalism” as it is used in the Bible while providing no support for this or even telling us how it is used in the Bible from your understanding.

      I can proof text too by the way…

      Proverbs 31:6-7
      Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,
      and wine to those who are bitterly distressed;
      31:7 let them drink and forget their poverty,
      and remember their misery no more.

      Psalm 104:14-15
      He provides grass for the cattle,
      and crops for people to cultivate,
      so they can produce food from the ground,
      104:15 as well as wine that makes people feel so good,
      and so they can have oil to make their faces shine,
      as well as food that sustains people’s lives.

      Exodus 15:20
      Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a hand-drum in her hand, and all the women went out after her with hand-drums and with dances.

      and there are a dozen more where those came from…

    • Michael T.

      I would highly suggest you study liberation theology a bit more. Suffice to say Mr. Beck’s accounts of the teachings of liberation theology are misinformed to say the least and outright dishonest at the other extreme. Liberation theology covers a whole spectrum of beliefs which vary from simply believing that the Church should give priority treatment to the needs of the poor to outright Marxist class warfare in the extreme. Some are within the spectrum of Orthodoxy (though I believe misguided) while others are outright heretical. I do not support liberation theology, but simply because a church has elements of liberation theology in it does not make it unorthodox or Marxist leaning. Only in the more extreme cases is this true.

    • Michael T.,8599,2014332,00.html

      In addition to “gladdening the hearts of men” apparently those who drink 1-3 drinks a day live longer as well. Even heavy drinkers outlive abstainers. Seems God knew what He was doing when he gave us alcohol and then told us to use it in moderation.

    • ThatRockWasChrist

      I have a problem with any 12 year old wearing makeup. Playing “dress up like Mommy” is one thing, but wearing makeup in public is quite another. Our kids are being sexualized at a younger and younger age; you’re not being legalistic, you are protecting your daughter. I don’t understand why your wife doesn’t see a problem with her wearing it at 11…

    • Jude

      You know I think it would be important for us to realize that our idea of “childhood” is rather cultural and artificial. Saying that our children are being sexualized at a younger age or that people are losing innocence sooner…those are just statements that come out of people living in the early 21st century who make a categorical distinction between childhood and adulthood. “Kids are like this. Adults are like that.”

      That sort of mindset just wasn’t wildly accepted for most of history. Children were just mini-adults, especially after reaching a certain age that would still be considered rather young to us.

      To prove the point, how many people today would insist that their 11 or 12 year old sons go out and get full time work? Who would see that their 13 year old daughter be married off? Things like that ring “off” and even morally wrong to our ears, but only because we can’t separate our culture from our beliefs.

      For the last few generations we’ve implemented a somewhat artificial structure where kids are at home until 6, then go to school until 18 and then more school until 22 before going out into the world as adults. And as such we’ve “created” several sections of life that earlier civilizations didn’t contend with. Adolescence? The twentysomethings? etc

      I suppose the idea comes down to trying to discover how to take what we are revealed in the Scriptures and apply them to our culture or if we have to ignore our cultural bias completely

    • Ray D

      Rom 14:15 states, “By what you eat do not destroy the one for whom Christ died”. This is a little more than offending the sensibilities of a weaker brother.
      If my legalistic brother is in danger of turning from Christ because of my actions I will gladly give up my liberty. If he is not I would refer him to Rom 14:4 ” Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls.”

    • Ray D

      When it comes to the dress and appearance of a daughter I must say I raised four boys and have no hands on experience. However, I have been a guy for 57 years. It splits almost evenly years as a Christian and years as a non christian. I have had some very frank and honest conversations with men both saved and unsaved. Michael, I think your scruples may just be dead on the money. It may not be popular but more men need to take a stand on their daughters dress and appearance.

    • Warwick

      Can’t help but think we are making distinctions between perceived ‘different classes’ of Christians, on the issue of weaker (and stronger) brethren here. As members of the one Body, as the Spirit works amongst us to grow us, are we not able to see that it is possible for the same person to be the ‘weaker’ in one area, and yet the ‘stronger’ in another? I don’t see where it is implied that the weaker brother is weak ‘in general’.

    • JJ

      A weaker brother, I believe Paul is saying, is the one who is tempted to do something that he feels is wrong.

      So, if I am going to a dance with the College & Career Singles Group at Church, and an older man (older than College singles, let’s say) calls up and says, “Dance! Dance! That is how liberalism gets started in the church. I am asking the Pastor to put an end to it. It highly upsets me. I can’t imagine any spiritual person would allow it. Have we no scruples!!!”

      OK, this person IS NOT A WEAKER brother. He may be other things, but he is not, by Paul’s definition, a weaker brother. (regardless of whether a dance is right or not.. just the first thing that popped into my head). This man is NOT a weaker brother because…. because, he is NEVER going to be tempted to go dancing.

      A person who is a weaker brother is tempted to fall into that sin. This person is NOT tempted. He is set, secure in his belief. We don’t need to worry about him slipping. But, to be sure, the Pastor can ask, “Bill, are you telling me this because you are tempted to go to this dance yourself, something you belive is wrong?” He will say, “NO! I don’t go to dances and I never will. And I certainly won’t….” etc.

      OK, so Bill confesses, he has no temptation to dance The dance is is something that he disagrees with, but it is NOT tempting him to dance.

      What to do? Make the wisest decision possible. If the elders believe the dance is of value for the college kids, go ahead. If they don’t, then don’t. But Bill is merely expressing his opinion at this point.

      Put this to work in any situation and you will find out who the real weaker brothers are. If someone I know is an alcoholic brother and they see me drinking, it could tempt them to drink. Now, in this case, I am under obligation of love to not exercise my liberty.

    • Elaine Kennedy

      This is an opportunity of a lifetime to tell your daughter that she is pretty and beautiful to you; she needs to hear it from her father…and to have deeper discussions with your daughter about ‘why’ people her age are wearing make-up…do they think it enhances their beauty? Are they secure or insecure? Is there lots of peer pressure to do this? And then, encourage your daughter to discuss these issues with her friends–why they want to wear make-up, etc. If it’s ‘make-up’ at age 11, she might want botox at age 14.

    • Warwick

      I am astounded! I was sure that the original topic of this blog had something to do with “weaker brethren”. And yet it seems to have been hijacked by posts relating to what, though an important issue (I’m sure I will need to consider it at some stage with my own daughter) was only an example CMP gave in order to give the title issue contextual relevance.

      I’m not denying it is important, but what are we to learn about living the scriptures and dealing appropriately with weaker (or stronger) brethren in our lives, by obsessing on the intricacies of our opinions about what age (or whether at all) our daughters should be allowed to wear make-up? Come on! This is not just an intellectual argument.

      Never the less, this is a concern I have wrestled with for some time, and I am convinced that, because of the dynamic ever-changing nature of our relationships with our brethren, we can only be prepared in advance to a point. There is no universal formula or silver bullet for it.

      Expecting suggestions about how we might apply what CMP says for “the best solution” is missing the point. Rather, I believe it is something, which will remain a “healthy tension” in each individuals life as the Word & Spirit work within them to give them the wisdom (scruples?) required to respond appropriately at the time, with the best solution for the unique circumstances of each specific situation they encounter, whether it be make-up, music, working on Sundays or whatever.

    • Paige-Patric Samuels

      This is a good article, however, I for one should add to that list that you presented. Beware of the super-spiritual.’ There are those within the ethos of some church groups. who overtly go beyond that which would allow liberality.
      As 1 Thess 5. 22. Abstain from all appearance of evil. (KJV).
      This is often construed as what is deemed to be evil by the so-called super-spirituals is evil even if this is not the case and may be a perfectly logical answer to it.

      So we have both sides of the poles where, the Weaker Brethren and the super-spirituals are in fact in similar boat yet opposite sides of the poles.
      My suggestion beware of the super-spiritual spirituals with their tabloid Theology.
      Credo et intelligum

    • […] to raise my girls is this. They can’t wear make-up in public until the are twelve (see the post on scruples). As well, once they start to wear make-up, they have to take a sabbath rest from it one day a […]

    • Carl Holmes

      I almost lost my ministry once because I am a pastor, and someone saw me having a glass of wine with a friend over dinner. It was a perplexing several weeks that followed. Ultimately, reason prevailed.

      I try not to be a scruples believer, but we all have scruples and we all must cast them at the feet of Jesus regularly. Scruples become idolatry of “understanding” if we are not careful.

    • […] is the weaker brother? I found this article interesting concerning those who make it their practice to get others to conform to issues that are […]

    • Bible Study

      The irony is that the weaker brethren are the legalists for they are not trusting in faith as much as works, they are not strong in faith. And calling them “brethren” is difficult for me to do since they are not trusting in faith, unless they are and are in disguise in order to bring other legalists into faith.

    • Paul

      As believers, our liberty was purchased by Christ, and it came at a great cost. While we should not bind the conscience, we should want to be like Christ. The goal for me (as in glorifying God and enjoying Him forever) is to be as holy as a blood-washed sinner can be.

      I will not be like the next believer, for the Holy Spirit is the One Who leads and guides; but we should be like Him: holy, sinless, undefiled.

    • […] makes Jesus happier somehow.  People like that are what Michael Patton is speaking of in a recent blog post where he says: I don’t think we are obligated to bow our liberty to everyone who has a problem […]

    • […] Check out this article from Parchment and Pen written by C Michael Patton entitled, Beware of the “Professional Weaker Brethren” […]

    • […] C. Michael Patton’s post “Beware of ‘Professional Weaker Brethren’” (, he talks about “professional weaker brethren” who abuse the Romans 14 injunction to […]

    • Pastor Matt

      A really good response on this Subject and some very refreshing thoughts from Martin Luther:

    • […] few years ago I read an excellent blog post by Michael Patton about “professional weaker brethren.” Concerning balancing the two […]

    • […] lives. Others do have a more malicious agenda. There is such a thing as what one friend calls, “professional weaker brethren.” And this passage is surely one of their favorite weapons to abuse others. I suspect most of […]

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