"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Stumbling Blocks and the Weaker Brother

I have been asked by some to give personal information on this blog including some information about Emmanuel's varied ministries, my time management habits, helpful tidbits for sermon preparation, etc . . .

I am working on a few posts pertaining to items listed above, and others, and will sprinkle them into the regular SBC related posts on this blog in the future.

Today I would like to offer to you a message I preached at Emmanuel four years ago. It is entitled Stumbling Blocks.

This message,which can be heard in real audio here, is very relevant today, particularly with the discussions that have been taking place recently within the SBC. It also happens to be the message where I share with my church the now infamous conversion story of the husband and wife with marital problems.

I listened to it again last night with my wife as we worked on different projects. The sermon reminded us both again of the wonderful church we are blessed to pastor, the importance of buidling your Christian ethic solely on the Word of God, and most of all, the timelessness and relevance of the Word of God. I don't know how preachers manage to teach without exegetically and expositionally preaching the Word.

I would be interested in the comments of those who actually listen to the message --- both those who agree and disagree.

In His Grace,



irreverend fox said...

I couldn't open it for some reason. Oh well, maybe God doesn't want me to listen to a message from a sacreligious man...ha ha

Paul Burleson said...


Since Paul the Apostle thought it wise to recommend to one that he be circumcised so he could relate to a group, [knowing full well being circumcised didn't open another's heart] and since Paul desired to become all things to all people in order to win some, [knowing full well his being anything didn't win another] do you suppose Paul was refering to what he was and what he did impacting an openness to him as a person on the part of another? Could it be that there is a difference between the heart being opened which is the work of the Word and the Spirit and our being adaptable a bit so as not to turn people off? That seems pretty clear to me. It seems pretty clear that's what you were saying in your story. Am I missing something?


Alycelee said...

I got to work early this morning. I'm so glad I did, I was able to listen to this word. Encouraging word to accept and love one another. Thanks again Wade

Africa M said...


Good message. In responding to the last post to Tim, I find that God's standards do not change depending on what culture you are in, but you may have to modify your actions, or your reactions and look carefully at scripture to make sure that you are lifting up Christ alone and not your own agenda that has little to do with Christ.

Wade Burleson said...


You said,

Could it be that there is a difference between the heart being opened which is the work of the Word and the Spirit and our being adaptable a bit so as not to turn people off?"

Well, in one sentence you have summarized what I have taken a voluminous amount words to try to say.



P.S. I thought about asking it this way. Would those who are outraged with me been welcomed with open arms by this lady and her husband? Just a thought. I think the counsel of Paul, "I have become all things to all people in order that I might win some" might apply here.

Kevin Bussey said...


Great points in your message. I have seen flaunting by some when it comes to their freedom. That is when it becomes a stumbling block to me. I've never seen that from you though. :)

Bob Cleveland said...


I enjoyed the sermon very much. I learned.

It seems there are three reasons why people might be upset with you and the story about conversion over a glass of wine.

1) The upset people are weaker in their walk, than you. That argument is self-defeating, IMO, as they know Paul's instructions. Their faith might be mature but their actions are not.

2) Your logic and sound scriptural basis is intimidating to their theology and their openly-stated positions.

3) They feel that others should conform to their beliefs and you aren't; or at least you do not agree with them and, even though you respect their authority, you will not agree with them.

To me, only reason #1 has any validity. But as I said it's self-defeating, since Paul said you ought to abstain so others won't get the idea that it is ok for them to do a thing that it would not be ok for them to do. And I do not see that as a concern with them, but rather than you might theoretically cause some hypothetical person to stumble.

I've been a believer for 40 years. I don't recall a real case of a "weaker brother" stumbling over something like this.

#2 and #3 should not even be mentioned among anyone in any denominational or spiritual leadership positions.

I think you are right on target. Stay the course, brother.

IN HIS NAME said...


Amen Amen Amen
This was the first time I heard your voice and your message, it brings Glory to God thru our Righteousness in Jesus Christ. Your ability to show God's Grace and Truth is so uplifting. I know I really fall short on my ability to deal with other Brothers, Sisters, and the log in my eyes.

Paul B,
You are a Man of Wisdom and have raised up a fine Son with Mary's help and I know you are both Blessed by the Lord.

You are another Man of Wisdom your comments are right on, looking forward to meeting you up yonder someday.

Africa M,

If you had walked in Wade's Shoes and had been persecuted for taking a stand for Christ and God's Word and then being hammered at by a select few of other Pastors and laymen how would you react?

Publius said...

Once again, your humility is refreshing. The problem is that we all so seldom recognize when we are being a "weaker brother." And we can all be strong on some points, and weak on others.

To be honest, Wade, I think you preached the wrong passage. Romans 14:13-18 is really intended for Catholics and Presbyterians and such, for advice on how to act around us Baptists. Baptists need to hear Romans 14:1-4. Our sin is not placing stumbling blocks, but condemning brothers in Christ for doing something we disagree with.

You've done well. You've been dancing around some of the "third rails" of Baptist politics and theology, and I applaud your courage. I pray you don't get burned.

psmpastor said...


I'm still listening as I write. When you become President of the SBC in a few years may I suggest that you preach this sermon at the convention. And when that happens, I pray that Les will be the one introducing you.:)

Les, I am just bringing levity to the situation. No sarcasim here, just hope


Paul Burleson said...


I promise I'll bow out after this comment, but, I guess I got a little irked at a comment section yesterday. As you well know, this is not in defense of you as you do that fine. I guess I just needed to say something for myself. But I had already posted my comment to BR at his blog and he responded rather graciously. I returned the response I trust as graciously. So, in fairness to you, I feel it is only right to put up my response to his response. [It will take an interpretation of tongues to understand that thought but since I have neither the gift nor ability to interpret I'll leave it alone.] Dad


While I respectfully disagree with your presuposition as you indicated you thought I might, I do appreciate your prompt response.

I think [without knowing for certain] there might have been some, [had there been bloggers we would have known it] who would have disagreed with Paul's decision to not ask Timothy to refrain from circumcision but, rather, to embrace it, on the very grounds you have chosen to challenge Wade's decision. I guess we'll just have to wait and let the Lord sort it all out at His coming and, in the meantime, live faithful to what light we have.


Paul B.

Kevin Bussey said...


I love your dad!


I just listened to your message while eating lunch. It really ministered to me. Thanks for making it available to me. God is hard to box in. I had similar experiences to yours with the Navy Seal and the wine collector. Thanks for sharing your stories!

Bryan Riley said...

It is a great sermon. And Bob makes some good points about people's reaction to such truth. In fact, it is very intimidating to try to live a life of love, acceptance and grace. It is impossible for us in our humanity, but thanks be to God all things are possible in Him. It is much more difficult to live a life of love, a life worthy of our calling, than living a life by setting up rules for oneself that one can follow 99.99 percent of the time.

Bryan Riley said...

Paul, BR can also stand for Bryan Riley, so please be careful how you throw that around. :)

Roger Simpson said...


I just listened to the sermon via streaming audio. This is the first time I have ever heard you preach.

My dad was from Ft. Smith Arkansas. He was born in 1919. He grew up in the depression there dirt poor -- moving to Sand Springs OK in the late 1920s.

He never could come to terms as to why as a teenager I would join a Southern Baptist Church where I met a girl that became my wife. (We are going on a mini-second Honeymoon in October after 42 years of marriage).

He remembers back in the 1920s and 1930s, as a kid, that Southern Baptists were "hard shell Baptists."

In his later years my Dad drifted into a "Philosophical Thought" type of "church". It was a type of Universalism like the Unitarian Chruch. I wonder if this was due to his association with Baptists growing up in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

As you say, our mission should be to bring people to Jesus, not put them on a guilt trip. We are all sinners in need of help.

One a scale of one to 10 I'd give your sermon a 12.

I know God is soveriegn. We don't always undertand what is going on. However, I wonder if my father would be in God's kingdom today if someone would have reached out to him as a kid.

My father never knew his own father as he left before he was born. His mother had polio and was institutionalized in a hospitals so his aunt raised him.

When my wife Donna and I were married we moved to San Jose CA where I took a job as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. The first time we came back to the Los Angeles area a few months later my father invited Donna and me to a very nice German restaurant. He offered to order wine for us but I got a coke instead. I don't know if I made the right decision or not. My wife's father was an alcoholic so this has factored into our outlook on alcohol and as a result we are both tee-totalers.

I think when we see the results of our relationships with others through the lens of "real world" situations it causes us to take stock.

Africa M said...

In His Name,

I was not meaning my comment as negative toward Wade or the message. I whole heartedly agree with the message. I was just trying to say that a sin should be a sin in every culture. Since I have been in a number of Baptist churches in other cultures that use wine for communion and/or offered me wine at the Sunday dinner following church it just seems that if this is a sin we have a lot of people in other cultures that are either sinning or the Spirit clearly has led them to the belief that a drink is not a sin. I have never met one that would say drunkeness is not a sin. The principles are the same the people are different. I guess I had just blogged on yesterday's post and even though my thought process was clear it may not have been to everyone else.

I only wish I had the wisdom and ability to write as clearly as Wade or his Father. It must run in the family.

Tony K. said...

Some Younger Preachers Need to Put their hands on their mouths a video clip from the Joshua Convergence

This is one of the "highlights" we have been hearing about.

Bill Scott said...

Bro. Wade,
The scalding you received was nothing compared to the eternal scalding that will potentially come to those we don't share the gospel with. We have all had those "not here, not now" thoughts when the Spirit moves within us to witness. Sometimes the thought could be, "not here, not now, not this way, Lord."

I recall a revival message that you delivered last year. You related a story during your message in which you walked accross the street from the church to a bar to invite people to a revival being held a the time. You told of a thankful mother calling and thanking you for your boldness and how you impacted her son that day.

I am thankful that you are obedient to that which HE asks you to do.

I am looking forward to listening to your message this afternoon.

Bill Scott

John Moeller said...


I listened to the sermon and agree with every point. “Accept your brother and rejoice in what Christ did for him”…”adapt your convictions to help your brother”.

You became, as Paul did, “all things to all people” sipping wine because you love people more than “Baptistic” rules. The same thing Jesus did many times in his ministry.

It seems there are too many “armchair Christians” taking pot-shots at you. You are willing to get dirty for the Gospel because you realize that lost people are not going to get cleaned up, put on a suit, and walk in your building at 11am on Sunday. I say, God bless you!

I wonder how many of the dissenter’s have righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. It seems they have a works mentality.

Bill Scott said...

Brother Wade,
I have always accepted that different denominations will hold certain different doctrines to be central and most important. It is true that doctrines are the glue that binds denominations together. After all, different denominations or fellowships are nothing more than grouping of like minded people who hold in common certain portions of the Truth.

The problem is that each denomination’s portion of the Truth sometimes does not overlap another denominations portion of the Truth. Sometimes church doctrine is like a Cliff Notes version of the Truth. While the abbreviated Truth contained in various doctrines partially tell the story, Cliff Notes will never substitute for the whole Truth.

I imagine the Truth (The Word of God) as a large circle. Within that circle are many smaller circles. These smaller circles sometimes touch or even overlap within the larger circle of Truth. Sometimes these circles do not touch at all. Sometimes these smaller circles cross the boundaries of the Truth. This is the problem. We stake out our “claims” within the larger circle of Truth. We then erect large powerful institutions within our circles. These powerful institutions often forget that the very ground upon which are circles exist are not of our own design. We also forget that our doctrinal circles overlap the doctrinal circles of other large and powerful institutions.

We will never be able to do away with doctrine or denominations. Nor do I think that it is wise to try to do so. What I do think is unwise is to overlook where our smaller circles overlap with the larger context of the Truth. These places of overlap are opportunities for cooperation, fellowship and common effort to explore the larger context of Truth together. Our cooperation, fellowship and common effort should draw those that are OUTSIDE of the circle to the inside where the will find the larger context of Truth.

Too often we throw rocks, insults and condemnation toward the other smaller circles. Think of how that must look to those totally outside the larger circle of Truth.

Bill Scott

Katya said...

Brother Wade,

I realize that you have asked people who actually listened to your sermon to comment here. As our internet isn’t always reliable or fast here in Eastern Europe, I didn’t actually listen, but read the outline. But, I’m sure that I have missed a lot without having the benefit of hearing the entire sermon, so forgive me if I’m asking something you’ve addressed.

I just have one question. You report that you promote abstinence in your church. How do you both promote abstinence even though you also have exercised your freedom to drink? In asking this question, I’m not really driving at whether we, as Christians, should drink, but what responsibility we have, as spiritual leaders. In Romans 14 Paul’s words for us focus on how we treat a weaker “brother” (fellow Christian). So, I don’t see the connection with how this passage relates to you, as a spiritual leader, reaching out to a non-believer (the woman wine collector). Thanks & Blessings.

Bob Cleveland said...


How about you refusing to use the knowledge you had, at that dinner, ultimately contributing to the continued stumbling of the wife (and thus the husband)? Anybody care about that?

You were free in Jesus to abstain, which was your preference. You sacrificed your personal preference (which was a consistent act of Jesus, by the way) and steered the dinner on a course you thought would lead somewhere to your hosts' profit.

God honored that. Since ONLY HE can save people, I attach great relevance to that.

Incidentally, I don't drink except on those occasions that I must eat dinner after about 7pm. Then a glass of red wine before dinner will assure digestion; abstaining will guarantee no sleep that night. Sure glad Paul knew Timothy.

Incidentally, that has not happened in the USA in 10 years.

IN HIS NAME said...

Africa M,

Please forgive me for the misread of your comment. I Totally agree on the wisdom and writing ability of Bro Wade and His Father Paul. I wish all Baptist had these gifts,

In His Name Waye Smith

David J. Sanders said...


This one of my favorite sermons of yours. I remember hearing it for the first time last Winter. Baptists usually like to skip over that passage.

Steve A said...

Great Sermon! Where's the scandal? Our skins must be thicker in the Bluegrass....

CB Scott said...


You are not half bad in a tag match. Hope your hair did not get messed up:-)


Bryan Riley said...

I'd encourage those who enjoyed the sermon to go to Emmanuel's site and listen to other of Wade's sermons. His series on Philippians is excellent, as is the one on Romans. Also, he has a really neat Clintonesque (you'll see what i mean when you listen to it) sermon on the Year of Jubilee.

johnMark said...


I appreciated and enjoyed this sermon. I believe you are correct in the way the weaker and stronger brothers should graciously get along and not hold certain convictions against each other.


mark sims said...

Bro. Wade,

What bothered me more than anything else from this past SBC (and folling evetns/blogs, etc.)was the seemingly "across the board" misunderstanding that those who would put extra-biblical strictures on others are themselves the 'weaker' brother, not the 'stronger' brother. Perhaps some/many of us SBCers need to be freed from our 'convictions' so as to fully embrace and be brought to our knees by the glorious riches of God in Christ, and so that we may indeed be His body.

TruthOfActs said...

Just heard your sermon and printed your outline.
1. Do you agree that the meaning of Scripture is more important than what the actual words say?
2. Do you agree that a ‘paraphrased’ Bible can bring out the meaning (whether right or wrong) better than the actual words?
3. Do believe the New Living Bible is a translation (not paraphrased) as it claims to be?

To evaluate your sermon on being doctrinally sound, the MEANING of the Scripture quoted must be truth.
The word that I question in King James verse 14 is NOTHING (“…there is nothing unclean of itself...”) That word raises a red flag to me as NOTHING might include, murder, adultery, stealing etc.
The (Old) Living Bible brings out the true meaning, “…there is NOTHING really wrong with eating meat that has been offered to idols.”
The New Living Bible: “I know and am perfectly sure on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat.”

The Living Bibles put NOTHING in proper context and took the ‘wiggle-room’ out of King James which allowed you to include drinking as OK (as long as you don’t get drunk.)

I thought Christians who thought eating meat sacrificed to idols was a sin because by eating it they were agreeing the sacrifice was holy to idols. The sin was not helping to support idol worshipers.

In Paul’s day, the Christians Jews thought they were stronger Christians by not eating meat offered to idols, but Paul referred to them as weaker brothers.
What would he call Christians today who look down their noses on their ‘non-inerrantists’ brothers?
Rex Ray

TruthOfActs said...

Hey! No comments anyone? Am I such a heretic that my thoughts are not allowed the respect of a denial? I though Irreverend Fox would at least say something.

sembrador said...

Pastor Wade,

I enjoyed your sermon, although I have to admit that I am not sure how comfortable I would be in a church where so many different beliefs are present on a regular basis. I know that we will all be together in heaven, but we will also know complete truth there. Most of what we fight over here will be obsolete. I am not in heaven yet.

Within the groups you mentioned, there are those who do not believe in the security of their salvation. I understand for some, most at best, the reason is that they just do not understand covenant.

What do you do about leadership development? How do you keep the doctrine pure within such a varied group?

There are GCCs here that experience has taught me that I cannot work with. It is impossible. They love Jesus, and are doing great things. Everywhere I go, I find them already working there. When I start a new work, they begin to teach doctrines that are not baptistic in nature to my new found disciples. Their church is growing very fast.

Also, you stated several times in your sermon that "we are not justified by what we do, but by what Jesus has done for us." -I couldn't agree more. However, our actions show the world who we are.

I appreciate your exercising your personal liberty in Christ to build bridges instead of erect barriers to the gospel.