Frequently Asked Questions
Romans 14 - Nothing unclean of itself - Part 3
As we approach the second half of Romans 14, let us keep in mind the essential element in the background of this chapter. Certain 'weaker' brothers are judging and being judged concerning issues that are not explicitly covered in Torah. All teaching concerning what is food and what is not food, and the mitzvot covering Shabbat or the festivals of YHVH are very explicit in Torah. The subject of Romans chapter 14, is the same subject, utilizing the same terminology that appears in 1 Corinthians 8 and 10.
"Let us not, therefore, judge one another any more; but judge this, rather: that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. I know, and am persuaded by Adonay Yahshua, that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him is is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy food, now walkest thou not in love. Destroy not him with thy food, for whom Messiah died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of; . . ."
Sha’ul warned his audience, in verses 7 through 12, not to judge one another in this matter, for we will all have to answer for what we do, and we will all stand before Messiah at the judgment seat. He exhorts not to judge but rather to keep from putting a stumbling block before other brothers. This is the same words used in 1 Corinthians 8:9 concerning the issue of meat offered up to idols eaten in the marketplace.
"But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a STUMBLING BLOCK to them that are WEAK."
Sha'uls conclusion to this matter in Corinth was to abstain from eating this food, so as not to offend the conscience of the weaker brothers. Sha’ul is teaching simple logic here. It is easier for the brother who is strong in the faith to abstain from eating meat possibly offered to idols, than to expect the 'weaker' brothers to 'grow up' and to 'get a life'. This is the same advice Sha’ul will give in this circumstance as well, because he is dealing with the same issue. In this context, Sha’ul tells them that there is nothing unclean of itself. This short phrase is generally interpreted to mean that there is nothing at all 'unclean' in and of itself. But is that what is being taught here? Could it be true that those things that YHVH declared to be unclean in the Tenakh, are now no longer unclean? Is it now up to the 'brethren' to decide whether he or she considers something to be clean or unclean? Challilah! God forbid! Consider what Sha’ul has to say in other places concerning things that are unclean.
"Wherefore, ’Elohiym also gave them up to UNCLEANNESS through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves."
"I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh; for as ye have yielded your members servants to UNCLEANNESS and to iniquity, unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness, unto holiness."
2 Corinthians 12:21
". . . I shall bewail many who have sinned already, and have not repented of the UNCLEANNESS and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed."
1 Corinthians 6:16-7:1
"And what agreement hath the temple of ’Elohiym with idols? For ye are the temple of the living ’Elohiym; as ’Elohiym hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their ’Elohiym, and they shall be MY PEOPLE. Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith YHVH, and TOUCH NOT the UNCLEAN thing; and I will recieve you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my SONS and DAUGHTERS, saith YHVH Almighty. Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us CLEANSE ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of ’Elohiym."
If nothing is unclean of itself, then why are we not to touch the unclean thing? As a matter of fact, we are to separate ourselves and cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh. The point of Romans 14:14, is the same point of the letter to the Corinthians. Food offered to idols in the pagan temples are nothing, because they are offered to gods who are no gods at all. The offerings did not make the food unclean, but if the weaker brothers believe in their conscience that it is unclean, then to them it is unclean. This is clearly the context of this entire chapter. In Acts 10:14, Kefa states that up till now he has never eaten anything common or unclean. This means that in his entire time spent with Yahshua, he did not eat those things which YHVH has declared unclean, and neither did he rise up and eat anything unclean after his vision. If the Brit Chadashah is studied and interpreted in light of the scriptures of old, we see that the subject of what is considered 'food' and what isn't is not even broached. There is nothing in the gospels or the letters of Sha’ul that teach on the subject. This is because the abrogation of YHVH's instructions concerning what is clean, holy and righteous is anathema. What is clean and pure today, is what has always been clean and pure. Only when the 'law' is used to save man from his 'sins' does Sha’ul say anything negative about Torah.
Sha’ul exhorts us not to let those things that are 'in dispute' and 'doubtful' cause others to stumble in their new walk with YHVH. The kingdom of ’Elohiym is not food or drink but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Ruach HaQodesh. He lists righteousness first. Doing what is right. Only Torah instructs us in what is right. If there is doubt concerning an issue, then the believers own conscience must guide him. If a person trusts (has faith) that a certain thing is wrong and does it anyway, then to him it is sin, for whatever is not done in trust (faith), is sin.
It is sometimes difficult to interpret circumstances that are described in this chapter because these are conditions that the modern reader does not ever face. When was the last time you saw a fellow believer eating meat offered to idols? However, the principles are to be applied today just the same. As followers of the Messiah today, we must make decisions that are equally doubtful and are not articulated in Torah. Suppose you, as a new believer, saw the associate Pastor of your church eating at a restaurant where alcohol is served quite liberally. Or suppose you watched a brother enter a book store that you know sells Penthouse and Playboy as well as Time and Newsweek. Would you draw any immediate conclusions? Would you assume the worst? What do the scriptures say about this? If I believe that this brother should not go into a book store because it sells both good and bad, then I must ask myself, "Do I associate myself with situations that are similar?" Do I judge this brother for the same things I do myself? Sha’ul and the other disciples had to face the same kind of normal everyday problems that we do today. We must keep in mind that what we are reading in the epistles of Sha’ul are letters. Letters concerning problems and difficulties that we all face and always have faced, and hopefully we learn from them.
"For whatever things were written in earlier times were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope."