What Romans 14 Means

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Let me start off by saying that anyone who says what my title says, i.e. “What (something) means” is telling you what they think it means. That doesn’t make it true, but it isn’t automatically wrong, either. It is incumbent on you, the one receiving the message, to verify that what is being said is true and valid. And if that is too much work for you, then you are a fool and will probably end up being one of the first ones on the line to take the mark.

That’s a pretty rough start to my message, isn’t it? Well, sometimes people need to be reminded that it isn’t what they hear that matters as much as what they accept, and acceptance should only be based on good information, taken from the Bible and verified by yourself, asking God to show you what it means, for you.

So, now we can talk about Romans 14. This chapter is about judging based on what people eat or which days they celebrate. Shaul (Paul) says, and this is a very condensed version of his explanation, that so long as what people do is to honor the Lord, then no one should judge them. This is stated most clearly in Romans 14: 6-8, so let’s take a look at that (this is from the Complete Jewish Bible):

He who observes a day as special does so to honor the Lord. Also he who eats anything, eats to honor the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; likewise the abstainer abstains to honor the Lord, and he too gives thanks to God. 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 —

The rest of the chapter goes into a little more detail, further teaching us that when we judge someone based on what they believe they are doing to honor the Lord, God, but is different from what we believe honors God, then we are placing a stumbling block in their path to becoming holier.

He says the kingdom of God is not of food but of righteousness (Romans 14:17) so we shouldn’t be telling someone, regarding food or worship days, that what they do is bad when they believe it to be good, meaning that in their minds and hearts they are doing it to honor the Lord.

The real-life examples of people judging others wrongly are too often seen in postings on these discussion groups regarding what I consider to be the Big Three Issues:

  1. Which calendar is correct?;
  2. What is God’s name and how to use it?; and
  3. What days are to be celebrated?

I have seen people accuse others, others who are truly trying to worship God correctly, to be praying to the devil or celebrating a pagan holiday, or that when calling upon Jesus they are praying to a horse (yes, that has been there a few times.) They say doing these things dishonors God.

I have seen so many different people declare that only their calendar is correct, insinuating that if someone else uses a different calendar then they are sinning because they aren’t celebrating a Holy Day or the Shabbat correctly.

Really? How can anyone believe that God will reject someone celebrating, oh, let’s say, Yom Kippur, on the evening their Jewish calendar says it starts, because it may be a day or two off from the absolutely correct date measured from the very first Yom Kippur?

Is God really that anal-retentive? Is he more worried about us doing something on the absolutely correct date, or using the one and only absolutely correct pronunciation of his name? Or he is more concerned with the attitude of our heart? If I eat ham but try to love others, forgive and treat people the way that the Torah says I should, will God tell me to go to hell when I come before him because even though I tried my whole life to be as he says I should be, I ate ham?

I don’t think so. Maybe I will not be as honored in heaven as someone who did everything I did and never ate ham, but I will still be there.

How do I know this? Because Yeshua said so: in Matthew 5:17 Yeshua says that he did not come to abolish the Torah but to fulfill it (which means to interpret it correctly), and after saying that he adds in Matthew 5:19:

So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

So, nu! There you have it! Yeshua, himself, indicates that we may sin, and even teach others to do so, but we can still end up in the Kingdom of Heaven. Maybe, just maybe, do you think this is what Shaul is talking about here in Romans?

Here’s a hypothetical: if I eat ham because I have been taught (as many, many Christians have been for thousands of years) that the laws of Kashrut (Kosher) are not necessary for Gentile Believers to obey, I am in violation of the Torah. But, it is not my intention to sin: I am, in my heart and mind, a grateful believer in God and Messiah and in many other ways I try to be as God wants me to be. But I was taught Kosher isn’t required for Gentiles. And that was most likely taught to me by someone who also thought they were not doing anything against God.

Here we have people sinning and teaching others to sin, but not on purpose and not in their minds or hearts. These are the ones who will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven.

What Shaul is saying in Romans is that when someone does what they do to honor the Lord, then neither you nor I nor anyone should tell them they are wrong or try to stop them. If someone uses the title “God” or “Adonai”, but you believe people should always use the Holy Name for God and pronounce it as “Yahweh”, that’s fine for you and you have no right- in fact, you would be wrong- to correct them.

If you are biblically Kosher (as I am) and see someone pray before eating their dinner, which has an appetizer of Bang Bang Shrimp and the main course is lobster, instead of chiding them in your mind for violating God’s commandments, just eat your food and mind your own business.

We will all come before the Lord (this is also something Shaul points out) and have to give an account of ourselves, and it is up to the Lord, God Almighty to judge us.

Here’s a news flash, people: you ain’t HIM! So don’t judge ’cause you yourself will be judged the way you judge (Matthew 7:2); in other words, we should only worry about ourselves because that is more than enough for any of us to have to do.

Don’t miss the important difference between those who sin because they reject God or who say they worship God and sin just because they want to, from those who worship God but sin from ignorance or misguided teaching. The former will certainly be in hot water when they come before God, and the latter will be in heaven, but not as esteemed as those who have obeyed more faithfully to do as God told us to do in the Torah.

One last thing: you may be thinking that this isn’t fair! Maybe you would say to God, “I really tried hard to be a “good” Christian but I was taught that Kosher isn’t important and Christmas and Easter are fine. They said I didn’t have to celebrate any of those “Jewish” holidays, so why am I being treated as less than others in heaven? After all, it isn’t my fault- I did what my religious leaders told me to do.”

Well, sorry to say, it is your fault because you did what you were told without checking if it was right or wrong. God gave us the Torah, and that is the only place in the Bible where God tells us how to worship him and how to treat others- the rest of the Bible, from Joshua through Revelations, is essentially not much more than commentary. Even what Yeshua taught was what God had already said, but Yeshua taught the deeper, spiritual meaning of those commandments. The Letter to the Romans Shaul wrote, as well as his other letters, are designed to help Gentiles that didn’t know God, the Bible or the Jewish lifestyle to adapt to it.

So if you want to obey Shaul then treat others as you would want them to treat you (Leviticus 19:18) and stop judging others who are trying to honor God in the way they know or have been taught. Of course, it is OK to try to steer them in the right direction: after all, that is what this ministry is all about, but you will never hear me tell someone they must worship or pronounce or celebrate the way I believe they should. I will tell them what God says in the Torah and leave it up to them to decide whether they will listen to God or religion.

I’ll end with this: as I said, as Shaul said, as God has said, we will all have to come before his throne of judgment, and when we do if you try saying something like, “But that’s what they told me I should do.” I believe God will answer with something like this:

“I understand, my child, that is what they told you to do, but it’s what I say that counts!”

Thank you for being here and please subscribe here and on my YouTube channel, share these messages with everyone you know, and if you like what you hear consider buying my books because you will like them, too.

And remember- I always welcome your comments.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Comments

  1. Steven R. Bruck
    Heather March 13, 2021 at 14:09

    Steve, thank you so much for your quick and thorough reply! I’m newer to observing Torah (started with Spirit-led Sabbath observation in the summer of 2020 and been unfolding the Greek and Hebrew original texts ever since), so I ran to scoop up this book on kindle..and then remembered it was Saturday. So it’ll sit in my cart a few more hours However, I did listen to an excellent exegesis of Romans 14 from Beth Immanuel that supports what you’re saying and also touches on several other problematic texts (problematic if you don’t know the Jewish interpretation, which is me). I look forward to connecting with you more as I grow! Thanks!

    • Steven R. Bruck
      Steven R. Bruck March 13, 2021 at 15:18

      Heather,
      The only thing I would advise you (if I may) when starting to observe Torah is that observing Torah is not how we attain salvation, which I suspect you already know, but it is how we show God that we want to live and worship him as he says we should. We worship not just by fasting on Yom Kippur or celebrating the Passover, etc., but by treating others as God says we should and obeying his other instructions, to the best of our abilities. And remember that in Deuteronomy 28, God promises the more we obey, the more blessings we receive.
      The important thing, for me, is that I know I can never be sinless, but I can always sin less, and that is my personal goal.
      It isn’t easy and I fail often, which is why I am so grateful for my Messiah. 🙂

  2. Steven R. Bruck
    Heather March 13, 2021 at 10:31

    Hi! You have said exactly (in the same TONE, even) what I’m sure of in my heart. My one stumbling block with Romans 14 is that Paul calls those who keep Torah weak. I’ve researched the Greek and cannot find a way out of this one. As such, my Christian friends and family have weaponized this, saying they do not judge me, especially since I’m weak in faith. Any guidance you can provide is appreciated!

    • Steven R. Bruck
      Steven R. Bruck March 13, 2021 at 11:21

      Heather,
      Thank you for your confirmation, and I am glad we are on the same page.
      The question here is exactly what is meant, within the context of the entire letter to the Romans and this particular chapter, by the term “weak”.
      “Trust” and “faith” can be interchangeable terms, depending on the context within which they are used. In this particular thought, Shaul is not talking about observing Torah as being weak, but that those who are “weak” are both Jewish and (newly) Believing Gentiles who aren’t spiritually mature enough or strong enough in their faith/trust to separate themselves from activities that they do because they are either comfortable, or as a result of peer pressure, or from superstition.
      I am getting some of this from Dr. David Stern’s “Jewish New Testament Commentary”, which I recommend you get to help you understand the “Jewish” side of the New Covenant letters.
      Observing the Torah, which requires people to abstain from certain foods and to observe holy days and fastings that are often difficult to do in a non-Jewish culture, certainly takes strength. It is ridiculous to even think that observance of activities and diet that goes against most everything everyone else is brought up doing is a weakness.
      The real weakness is the lack of self-discipline that causes people to pick and choose which of God’s commandments they will follow, and to rationalize rejecting the others. I call these people “Buffet Believers.”
      When I read Romans 14, it seems to me that what Shaul is saying is that those who have a weak faith will do whatever is easy, and that could mean observing Torah because they think it makes them seem “holy” or ignoring Torah because all their friends do. They aren’t necessarily doing something bad- it’s just that they aren’t spiritually “strong” enough to be in a position to demonstrate the kind of self-discipline true righteousness requires.
      Only someone with no understanding of what faith and self-discipline (which takes great strength) really are would call someone observing a set of codes as “weak.”
      One last thing: if anyone is calling you weak because you observe Torah, they ARE judging you! And you should remind them of what Shaul says in that very chapter about not passing judgment because that would be putting a stumbling block in someone’s way as they try to become more righteous.
      In my experience, most Christians want to deny the Torah because that is easier than following it.

Comments welcomed (just be nice)