The Dietary Laws
In part three we skimmed the surface as to the defining of the weak and the strong. Romans 14 is always used by modern scholarship to show that Sha’ul is changing God's instructions, with His divine permission of course. Why is it that when the New Testament mentions eating, drinking or observance of days, that we automatically ASSUME that this is referring to the kashrut laws or the Sabbath? Sha’ul is writing this epistle to the gentiles in Rome! These are also new believers in the Lord. We have already seen how new ignorant (without knowledge) believers are to be handled in Acts chapter 15. The Apostles concluded that new believers were to abstain from pagan activities and go to synagogue every week to learn the word from Moses, and that the "Jewish" believers were to abstain from bombarding them with regulations they were not ready to handle. They also comdemned the "Jewish" believers who still did not understand that redemption (the new birth) was not faith plus circumcision, or faith plus obedience to Torah.
Romans chapter 14 follows Sha’ul's instructions about service to God in chapter 12 and 13. Our bodies are to be a "living sacrifice, HOLY and acceptable unto God..." He explains how they all have different ministries in the body. In 12:9 he teaches that they are to abhor that which is evil and cling to that which is good. It is Torah that defines what is evil and what is good. He exhorts these new Roman believers to be subject to their rulers and do that which is good in chapter 13. In 13:8-10 Sha’ul defines loving thy neighbor, as Yochanan (John) also defines love in his first epistle. "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another; for he that loves another has fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly COMPREHENDED in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love works no ill to its neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law."
The word "comprehended" is from the Greek word anakephalaiomai. Say that five times real fast! This word means to sum up or to gather. It is also used in Ephesians 1:10 and translated there as to "gather together in one". Sha’ul, being a Jew and most knowledgable in the Scriptures, is teaching these new believers what the command to love thy neighbor as thyself means. It means not to covet his neigbhors things or wife, or to steal from him or murder him, etc. Yeshua also explains this when He answers the scribes about the two great commandments. He SUMS UP the commandments in the Old Testament in the two commandments to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. He is not replacing all the commandments but GATHERING them up. This was a common understanding in Hebrew thought and would have been required knowledge for any "Messiah" candidate.
In Romans 14 we come to the "weak in the faith". Sha’ul is about to give instructions concerning the weak in the faith, who were defined in the previous lesson. He begins:
"Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believes that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eats herbs. Let not him that eats despise him that eats not: and let not him who eats not judge him that eats; for God hath received him."
The context is clear, Sha’ul is addressing how to receive the weak in the faith. Right here is where modern scholarship makes it's first faulty assumption. They ASSUME that Sha’ul is contrasting the STRONG in the faith with the WEAK in the faith. There is no mention whatsoever to the strong in the faith, only the weak in the faith. In verse 2 a comma is inserted in the text which gives the appearance of this contrast, but the text, I believe, does not call for this contrast, (i.e. the strong in the faith verses the weak), but rather the weak verses the weak. Sha’ul is not comparing himself, a Torah observant Jewish believer, to the new gentile believers, but rather addressing the problems that weak brothers are experiencing among themselves. Back to the comma. Verse 2 can read, and should read according to the ongoing context:
"For one believes that he may eat all things; another who is weak, eats herbs."
This flows with the context of dealing with weak brothers. Sha’ul does not personally place himself in the context until verse 14. Here he says "I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Yeshua, that nothing is unclean of itself; but to him that esteems anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean."
Then he goes on to say in verse 15 that if a brother be grieved with your FOOD, now walkest thou not in love. Destroy not him with your FOOD, for whom the Messiah died. This is the exact same conversation that Sha’ul had with the new believers in Corinth in chapter 10. This is in reference to believers eating FOOD sacrificed to idols, and that this FOOD is not defiled, for idols are nothing. But Sha’ul's conclusion is the same. If the immature believer esteems this as unclean then the mature brother needs to understand this and not offend a new believer with FOOD. Then Sha’ul goes on to say that the kingdom of God is not FOOD and drink but, righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Ruach HaQodesh.
I thought I would make a few more comments about this portion of Scripture, for it is misapplied texts such as this that I believe is responsible for much misery, disease, depression and moral corruption in the "church". It seems to be a Pavlov's dog thing to apply the food mentioned in verses two and three, and the word "day" in verses five and six, to the elimination of food instructions and the Sabbath. As I said before, Sha’ul had just finished intructing them to be holy and righteous, even in the midst of the pagan culture they were surrounded with. The Greek/Roman culture was packed full of "special days" and observances. The first day of the week "Sun-day" was elevated above the rest as the weekly worship of Isis, the "sun" goddess. Meats or FOODS were still being offered to her and sold in the market places. The new believers were accustomed to multiple gods and idol worship. These observances were common, everyday occurances, and the principle religious activity of their relatives, neighbors and co-workers. Special days of the year were part of their lifestyle. Everybody did it! So it is in error, to conclude that Sha’ul is speaking of the dietary laws or the Sabbath in this chapter. The context seems to teach that these weaker brothers were squabbling among themselves over certain issues. Some, in their new found faith, were eating whatever FOOD they wanted and were being judged by those who were still eating only herbs. Abstaining from animal meat as a means of spiritual enlightenment was common in this culture (see 1 Timothy 4:3). Some were regarding certain days as above others and some were not. There is no reference to the Sabbath here for these people were not observers of the seventh day. When you combine these verses with all that Sha’ul teaches and the book of Acts, I believe that Sha’ul is addressing an attitude toward weak brethern. It would seem natural that at some time in the future these "weak" brothers will grow, mature, and become strong in the faith, and no longer be subject to the attitudes concerning a weak brother. Neither Yeshua nor Sha’ul would expect the weak in the faith to remain weak in the faith, but in the context of Acts 15, to grow through the teaching of the Word. I would think that it would be beyond any serious student of the word to conclude that God would suddenly render irrelevant, something previously precious in His sight. The Sabbath is not referred to as a day "above" the others, but rather the capstone or conclusion of the week. God designed it to be a picture of what it means to rest in Him. As Yeshua said, this day is made for us, not us for it. We will do an in depth teaching on the Shabbat at a later time.
I have spent a considerable amount of time addressing the common Scriptures used to teach that God's instructions are not for us. I feel it is imperative to deal with these issues first. Whenever the issue of feasts, the Sabbath, or food is concerned, these flags always come up first. Many Christians desiring to really follow the Lord will be quoting these New Testament verses. These scriptures are terribly out of context, and are an excellent example of giant paradigm shifts in thinking. Without knowledge of the culture of the people who wrote these things, every kind of abhorant behavior can be justified. Every kind of lifestyle can be rationalized. "Well, as long as you do it unto the Lord". This teaching breaks the heart of God, and modern "Christian" doctrine is destroying this country.
II Chronicles 7:14
"If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, AND TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS, THEN will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their SIN, and will heal their land."