This is a very confusing chapter for many, especially with the traditional Christian misinterpretation of it, enforcing the improper interpretation of Acts 10, which has resulted in Christians thinking that the law of Kashrut (Kosher) is done away with.
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Now, before we look at the specific verse in the title of today’s message, let’s review what this chapter is about. This is the proper way to interpret any verse or string of verses one reads in the Bible and is known as using Circles of Context.
(You can find more on this in my teaching series entitled “How to Properly Interpret the Bible”. Here is a link to it:)
How To Properly Interpret The Bible – Messianic Moment
Shaul (Paul) is explaining to the believing Gentiles and Jews in Rome that people have different levels of spiritual maturity, and different levels of faithfulness. He states that it is not correct for someone who (for lack of a better phrase) knows more than the other person, and whose faith is stronger, to criticize the person with the weaker faith if they choose to eat food as a means of demonstrating their obedience.
He isn’t really dealing with the often-problematic issue of legalism vs. faith, which I define as performance-based salvation vs faith-based salvation; performance-based meaning one does what the Torah says to earn salvation through works alone, whereas faith-based is obeying the Torah out of love for God, respect for his authority, and faithfully believing that what God says we should do is always for our own benefit.
That is not the issue, here: the issue regards eating and drinking.
This is clear in Romans 14:2, which says:
One person has the trust that will allow him to eat anything, while another whose trust is weak eats only vegetables.
You have to remember that the person saying this is a Pharisee, a “Jew’s Jew”, so when he talks about food, he isn’t including pork rinds or shrimp cocktails. He is talking ONLY about what is allowed in Leviticus 11. And this lesson from Shaul comes about 5 years after the Elders in Jerusalem wrote the letter to the believing Gentiles (Acts 15) prohibiting them from eating anything sacrificed to idols.
The confusing part, as I see it, is in the middle of this chapter when Shaul (overstepping his boundaries, I believe) goes as far as to say that someone of strong faith knows there are no other gods, so if something (meat) is sacrificed to a non-entity, the thing sacrificed has not been changed, ceremonially or spiritually, from what it had been. He states someone with faith strong enough to know this will eat meat sacrificed to idols without guilt because they know it is meaningless. However, he says this should not be done in front of someone whose faith is weaker and believes that eating meat is wrong.
This is made clearer in Romans 14:5-8: Shaul explains (I am paraphrasing) that when the faithful do anything, they do it for the Lord, God, and so when they eat meat, they eat it for God, and anything done for God is acceptable to God, whether that is eating meat or celebrating a holiday.
NOTE: I would like to point out to those who deride celebrating Christmas and Easter, this passage is for you- according to Shaul, so long as whatever we do, we do to honor God, it is OK.
His conclusion is that those who are stronger should not do anything to place a stumbling block in the path of the weaker, and if we, for instance, eat meat in front of someone who thinks eating meat is wrong, we might cause that person to become confused and feel guilty; so, as the stronger, we should abstain from eating what others refuse to eat. He concludes that if it comes down to it, he will choose to never eat meat or drink wine if it causes a brother to fall.
The main point of today’s message is that this chapter is NOT a polemic against the Torah or a justification for rejecting the kosher laws. It has nothing to do with either, really- it is a discussion about the faithful person not unfairly judging a less faithful person, and doing what our stronger faith should enable us to do, which is to support the weaker in faith in order to bring them to a better understanding of God’s word.
Christianity has based almost all of its tenets on the letters Shaul wrote, yet in none of them has he ever rejected the Torah or taught anyone else to do so. He doesn’t require Gentiles who are accepting Yeshua, and thereby converting to a Torah-observant lifestyle, to do so “cold turkey”. He brings them slowly into this new way of living, allowing them to learn step-by-step how to live a righteous lifestyle.
But Shaul never taught anyone, ever, to ignore the Torah.
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That’s it for today, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!