Frequently Asked Questions
Romans 14 - Doubtful Disputations - Part 2
The very first verse of Romans chapter 14 contains two short phrases that are crucial to understanding this entire chapter. The term 'weak in the faith' we covered last time. The weak in the faith are those that are feeble and malnourished in their trust. They are not knowledgeable in the principles of Torah and have not experienced the blessings of living according to the word of their heavenly Father. In the same way a person is sick, impotent, and diseased in their body, these fall and stumble in their faith. As a result of this, they are all over the map concerning those things that are not explicitly taught in Torah. The scriptures call these undefined circumstances 'doubtful disputations'.
The phrase 'doubtful disputations' is the crucial focal point of this chapter. These two words are many times glossed over when trying to understand Sha’ul's teaching. It is important to see that Sha’ul is addressing the weak in the faith about matters that are not clear, or as it is written literally in the Greek, matters of certain thoughts. I would ask anyone that has any knowledge of what has already been defined as scripture, to consider whether there is any ambiguity in Torah, remember there is no Brit Chadashah yet, concerning what is 'food' and what day of the week man is to rest and worship YHVH. Is there any indication anywhere that the Word of the God of Israel is 'doubtful' or 'in dispute' in these two areas? Do you read anywhere of any of the prophets of YHVH even for a moment considering Torah to be 'in the eyes of the beholder' or 'up to our own discretion'? Sha’ul, the Hebrew of Hebrews and the one who said ". . . so worship I the ’Elohiym of my fathers, believing all things which are written in Torah and the prophets. . .", calls Torah such a thing as 'doubtful disputations? Sha’ul is about to give his opinion concerning issues that are NOT covered by Torah, and are causing some stumbling among those who are not strong and discerning in their faith. This important concept must be grasped from the beginning, for if it is not, then the entire chapter becomes a breeding ground for the grandest justifications you can imagine. The typical 'Christian' view of these passages contradicts the very nature of YHVH, and turns Him into the celestial fountain of liberalism.
To be consistent with this existential, whatever feels good view, the first six verses of Romans chapter 14:1-6, would read something like this:
"To those that feel the need to obey their Father, receive ye, but not to matters concerning Torah. For the strong in the faith believe that they can eat anything they want now, but those who are weak and bound by Torah are not free to eat all things. Let not those who are free now to eat, look down upon those on restricted diets, and let not those who have ritually separated themselves from the swine and the crab, judge those of us who have been released from archaic culinary restrictions. Who are you to judge another man's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Yes, he shall prop himself up; for the Christ, I mean God, is able to straighten him out. One man considers the sabbath to be above the other days, but those of us who are free in Christ, consider every day to be the same. Let everybody make up his own mind. For those who actually think that the sabbath has any meaning, well, you can rest and worship on that day if you want, as long as you do it unto the Lord. Alright? OK. But those of us who are strong and believe that every day is for Jesus, and that his resurrection ended all the 'Jewish' stuff, we regard Sunday above the rest, even though we just said that every day is the same. Whether you feel the need to follow the clear instructions of God or not, make sure when you finish eating that you give God a big round of applause.
I suppose I was a bit sarcastic, but that is generally how this section is looked upon. With the idea of doubtful disputations in mind let's go on.
"For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth; for ’Elohiym hath received him."
Since we know that the instructions of YHVH concerning what is food and what isn't is not in doubt, what is it that is in dispute? The answer is the same thing that was in dispute in the letter Sha’ul wrote one year before this one. The same thing that caused the 'weak in the faith' to stumble in Corinth.
1 Corinthians 8:1-10
"Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love ’Elohiym, the same is know of him. As concerning, therefore, the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other ’Elohiym but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth (for there are gods many and lords many), but to us there is but one ’Elohiym, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Adonai Messiah Yahshua, by whom are all things, and we by him. However, there is not in every man that knowledge; for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol, and their conscience, being WEAK, is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to ’Elohiym; for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a STUMBLING block to them that are WEAK. For if any man see thee, who hast knowledge, sitting at the table in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him who is WEAK be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols. . ."
Chapters eight, nine, and ten of 1 Corinthians all deal, to a greater or lesser degree, with the issue of offending 'weak' brethren by eating meat offered to idols in the market place. This subject comes under dispute and doubt since it is not covered explicitly by Torah. Some of the great Talmudist's also deal with this subject as a matter of 'Oral law'. An idol that is revered as ’Elohiym Himself is idol worship. An idol revered or worshipped as an idol is idol worship. An idol that is neither worshipped as ’Elohiym or as an idol is nothing at all. This is the consensus of several Talmudic scholars. In explaining what we have just read in 1 Corinthians concerning meat offered to idols, I have chosen to reproduce a commentary on these verses from the NIV study bible.
"Meat left over from a sacrifice might be eaten by the [pagan] priests, eaten by the offerer and his friends at a [pagan] feast in the [pagan] temple, or sold in the public meat market. Some Christians felt that if they ate such meat, they participated in pagan worship and thus compromised their testimony for Christ. Other Christians did not feel this way. . . an idol is nothing. It represents no real god and possesses no power . . . Christians who conceive of an idol as being real cannot rid themselves of this idea. Consequently, they think that in eating meat sacrificed on pagan altars they have involved themselves in pagan worship, and thus have sinned against Christ . . . the weak brother is destroyed by your knowledge . . . Eating meat offered to idols when they feel it is wrong tends to blunt their consciences, so that doing what is wrong becomes much easier. The result may be moral tragedy . . . Paul will forever refrain from engaging in the harmless practice of eating meat sacrificed to idols if it will cause his weak Christian brother, who feels it is wrong also to eat that meat"
Now, I may not agree entirely with all of the NIV perspective on this subject, but I did want to highlight a few things that this commentary does recognize. Pagan sacrifices were offerings of meat from dead animals, weak brothers were those lacking knowledge, and the subject Sha’ul is addressing has nothing to do with Messiah making unclean things alright to eat. It is this background that makes Sha’ul's comments in Romans 14:2-3 logical and harmonious. There are some of the brethren who feel it is alright to eat whatever food is sold in the marketplace. There are others, in fear that the meat may be offered to idols, who are content to just eat herbs. An explanation calling for a contrast between eating all unclean things or one who eats 'only herbs' makes no sense. The contrast, according to the testimony of the rest of scripture, is between those who feel it is alright to eat the 'meat' sold in the marketplace and those who abstain from the 'meat' and eat only herbs. Conclusion? Do not judge one another concerning this.
Now, concerning the esteeming of one day above another, the common association of the Sabbath with the other days of the week here, is absurd! To begin with, when the scriptures are speaking of the Sabbath, they refer to this day as 'the Sabbath'! Never, and I mean NEVER! is the Sabbath referred to as just 'a day'. When the scriptures mean the Sabbath, they say the Sabbath. It is only an anti-jewish mind that would leap right to the Sabbath day here. Did we all forget who Sha’ul is writing to in this letter? THE ROMANS! The most pagan-soaked society in Dodge. The Roman and Corinthian cultures had a myriad of superstitious days and times for everything under the sun. There were specific days that were best for marrying and asking for her hand in marriage. There were days above other days when it was time to wage war, to make love, to make a new friend, and to avoid certain foods, like only fish on Friday. There were certain special days for marriage within the 'Rabbinical' circles as well. Torah makes no comment with respect to making one day more important than another with respect to these kinds of things. Sha’ul's advice is that if one wants to make the third day of the week a better day to get married, well then, get married and do it unto YHVH. If the first day is a better day to make love, then do it unto 'Elohyim. These are 'doubtful disputations'. Nowhere does the God of Israel teach that if one is going to pervert Torah, then pervert it unto the Lord! I find it particularly hypocritical to appeal to these verses as the reason for the discarding of Shabbat, and then elevating Sunday above the other days. The bottom line is that this verse has NOTHING to do with Shabbat. Shabbat has been the capstone of the week and man's day of rest and worship from the very beginning, and according to scripture, will be to the very end.
Next time we will continue in our study of this provocative chapter.