Romans 14

“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters” (Romans 14:1).

Faith in Hebrew is emunah and means ‘something fixed’ like a covenant.  According to Hebrews, the definition of faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see … and it is impossible to please God without faith” (Hebrews 11:1,6).

In Greek, the word for ‘weak’ in Romans 14:1 is astheneo and means ‘weak and sick’ in a moral sense and ‘without strength.’  So one who is weak in faith is without moral strength to make a decision regarding disputable matters, their ability to please God is weak.  They are not sure of how to respond to others in questionable matters especially when there is quarreling.  They are weak in faith.

Non-Disputable Matters

According to Sha’ul (Paul), it is futile to argue about the Torah, Elohim’s instructions, because they are His commandments (Titus 3:9).  They are indisputable.  They are His standard of righteousness that will not disappear until heaven and earth pass aways (Matthew 5:17).  However, many today would argue the ‘end of the law’ so let’s get a little more specific.

What about the Ten Commandments? Which of the ten are disputable? Can we worship other gods? Have idols? Should we take Elohim’s name in vain, profaning it among the nations? What about the Sabbath?  Though it has become a ‘disputed’ matter, it remains the seventh-day as created by Elohim and should never be disputed.   Should we no longer honor our parents?  Can we murder, lie, commit adultery, steal, and covet?  None of these commands are disputable because they are established by Elohim in His Torah – the specifics explained in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.   

Eating or Digesting

“One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.  The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them” (Romans 14:2-3). 

In the Orthodox Jewish Bible this verse says, “For example, one person has emunah [faith] to eat every potential food; but the weak practice vegetarianism.”

Since the Torah is established by Elohim, we should already know and understand what He considers food as explained in Leviticus 11.  Romans 14 is not  a discussion about whether one eats ‘clean’ or ‘unclean’ food, but whether one eats ‘clean’ meat or vegetables.

During the first-century, street markets sold different foods. There were markets for fruits, vegetables and ‘clean’ meat. In the meat market, there was always the possibility, especially in Rome, of meat being sacrificed to idols.

Sha’ul explains food sacrificed to idols in more detail in 1 Corinthians 8.  We all know that food may be sacrificed to idols.  Yet, an idol has no real existence in the world as there is only one Elohim – most especially for us – our Father, from whom all things come and for whom we exist.  We all have one Lord, who is Messiah Yeshua, through whom we have our being.  But not everyone has this knowledge.  Some gentiles are so accustomed to idols that when they eat food which has been offered to them, they think it really is affected by the idol, and their conscience, being weak, becomes defiled.  Eating or not eating foods doesn’t change our relationship with God – we will not be poorer if we abstain nor richer if we eat.  However, we must be careful of our understanding and greater faith so that it does not become a stumbling block to one of weaker faith.  Sha’ul sums up his discussion about food sacrificed to idols by saying that he would never eat ‘clean’ meat again if it causes his brother to sin.  This is the essence of Romans 14.  

“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand” (Romans 14:4). 

In some modern-day Chinese restaurants, plates of food are offered to Buddha before it is taken to the guest to eat.   I worked in a Chinese restaurant witnessed this with the owners even though I never personally offered a plate of food to Buddha.   Sha’ul is saying that a person of ‘weak’ faith is not going to eat the plate of food because it may have ibeen offered to an idol or foreign god.  To keep their conscience clear, they choose to eat only vegetables.  A person of strong faith understands that holding a plate of food and offering it to Buddha means nothing, but in order to not stumble a brother or sister, they will refrain from eating such foods.  

Praying over ‘unclean’ meats like pork, horse, shellfish, dog or rat doesn’t suddenly make the meat ‘clean’ any more than praying over a same-sex couple changes their abominable lifestyle into something acceptable to Elohim.  We do not have the authority to change something that Elohim calls an abomination into something ‘holy.’  Yeshua did not die on the cross to redeem the pig, the horse, the dog, or the clam or homosexual relationships.   However, a ‘clean’ meat that has been corrupted through idolatry can be consecrated back to Elohim through prayer.  

For none of us lives only in relation to himself, and none of us dies only in relation to himself;  for if we live, we live in relation to the Lord; and if we die, we die in relation to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord — indeed, it was for this very reason that the Messiah died and came back to life, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” (Romans 14:7-9). 

Each of us has a personal walk of faith before the God of Israel.  We will, on a daily basis, come in contact with disputable issues.  We must determine for ourselves what Elohim would want us to do and what He wouldn’t.  According to Sha’ul, we do not live or die for ourselves alone because we are part of the Body of Messiah.   Every choice we make affects those in the Body and if we have strong faith, we must not destroy the work of the Lord in a person of weak faith over a disputable matter.    

Sacred Days

“One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God” (Romans 14:5-6). 

 in a cultural context.   This would be like  New Year’s Eve on December 31 into the new year on January 1. For some it’s a ‘sacred’  holiday.  They plan great parties, eat outrageous foods and wear crazy clothing.  This is the way they ‘bring in’  the new year.   For those who own a business, it is the end of one fiscal year and the beginning of another.  For others, it only represents  a new date on the calendar they need to remember when writing checks, but has no other value to them.  New Years is a disputable matter and in and of itself does not nullify any of God’s commandments.  

A more personal example is birthday celebrations and wedding anniversaries.  Some cultures celebrate these days with pomp and splendor while other cultures take no notice.  These celebrations are a disputable matter on which no one is to argue.  Each of us has to be convinced in our own mind that we are honoring Elohim during these benign holidays.  

These verses are not about the Biblical holy days found in Leviticus 23.  These verses are not about the seventh-day Sabbath.  Sha’ul is in no way advocating picking any day of the week and claiming it as Elohim’s created holy day.  Of course, we can all take a day off  and ‘shabbat’ whenever we choose, but we are not given the authority to negate the ‘appointed times’ that are holy to yod-hey-vav-hey which embody the past, present and future work of Yeshua.   We can and should worship Elohim everyday of the week every moment of the day, but to use Romans 14 to negate Elohim’s divine appointments with us distorts Sha’ul’s words and brings on individual as well as corporate destruction of the Body of Messiah. 

“He [Sha’ul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters.  is letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16).

In an effort to ‘prove’ Romans 14 is about ‘unclean’ foods suddenly becoming ‘clean,’ many judge Elohim’s word.  They have contempt in their hearts regarding His Torah and those people who choose wholeheartedly to obey His commandments.  Some will even judge a person’s standing with Yeshua –  a serious accusation of someone’s heart before the Lord.   We will all stand before God’s judgment seat and give an account of ourselves to Him.   Whether or not we are in Messiah, saved, born again, we will give an account of our lives.  If someone wants to stand before the Creator of the Universe, the Lawgiver,  the yod-hey-vav-hey and say, “I ate unclean foods because of my freedom in Christ,”  then let it be so.  However,  I would rather stand before Yeshua and hear him say I was too zealous for the teachings of his Father than to hear, “Depart from me, I never knew you, you worker of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).

“You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God” (Romans 14:10-11). 

“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Yeshua, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil” (Romans 14:13-16). 

The Greek word for ‘food ‘ in Romans 14:14 in the Strong’s said “not in Greek” meaning ‘food’ was not found in the original Greek manuscript though it is in the NIV.   Romans was never about dietary regulations or the ‘appointed times’ of Elohim, but what individuals consider acceptable or unacceptable in their personal lifestyles – disputable matters.  The disputable matters could fall into the category of elementary teachings where one is able to only digest the milk of the word versus the one who has strong faith and can digest the meat of the word.  Each person must live out the faith that they have already attained.  When it comes Romans 14 and disputable matters, the discourse is about protecting the conscience of the person of weak faith through the compassion of the person of strong faith so that everyone is united in the love of Messiah. 

“So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.  But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:22-23). 

©2014 Tentstake Ministries

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