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The Epistles of Paul - Romans Part 19, 08-29-2014: Christian Disagreement
In Romans chapter 12 Paul explains, to a great degree, how Christians should treat one another. Of course, when we read these passages from Paul's letters, we must remember that he is only talking about the members of the body, “those who are Israel”, which has nothing to do with aliens. From Romans chapter 12: “4 Just as in one body we have many members, but the members all do not have the same function; 5 in this manner we are many in one body with Christ, and each one members of one another. 6 But having varying gifts according to the favor which is given to us: whether interpretation of prophecy according to the proportion of faith; 7 or service in the ministry; or he that is teaching, in education; 8 or he that encourages, in encouragement; he that is sharing, with simplicity; he that is leading, with diligence; he showing mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Love without acting; abhorring wickedness, cleaving to goodness: 10 brotherly love affectioned towards one another; in honor preferring one another 11 with diligence, not hesitating; fervent in Spirit, serving the Prince. 12 Rejoicing in expectation; persevering in afflictions; firmly persisting in prayer; 13 sharing in the needs of the saints; pursuing hospitality. 14 Speak well to those who persecute you; speak well and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who are rejoicing; lament with those who are lamenting; 16 being of the same mind towards one another, not thinking of lofty things, but accommodating oneself to those that are humble: do not be wise on account of yourselves; 17 to no one returning evil in place of evil: having noble intentions in the presence of all men; 18 if possible from yourselves, being at peace with all men; 19 not taking vengeance yourselves, beloved, rather you must give place to wrath; for it is written, 'vengeance is Mine! I will requite, says Yahweh.' 20 Now, 'if your enemy were to hunger, feed him with scraps; if he thirsts, give him drink; for doing this, you will heap coals of fire upon his head.' 21 You must not be overcome by evil, rather overcome evil with that which is good.”
What Paul had taught in Romans 12 about both brotherly love and vengeance is summarized in the law in a single verse from Leviticus chapter 19: “18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD.” Like Paul's words, those words in Leviticus only applied to the children of Israel. In turn, Paul's words also fully agree with those of Christ in Matthew chapter 5: “38 You have heard that it has been said ‘An eye for an eye’ and ‘A tooth for a tooth’. 39 Now I say to you, not to oppose evil, but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn for him also the other. 40 And to him desiring for you to be judged and to receive your cloak, give up to him also the shirt. 41 And whoever shall press you for one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him asking you, and you should not turn away from him wishing to borrow from you.” The words of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount are also only applicable to the children of Israel, since only the children of Israel fit into the context of the sermon where it speaks of the law and mercy in relation to the people. According to these words of Christ, we overcome evil with good by doing for our brethren things that they may not do for us, or by giving them even more than they asked for when they require something of us. Therefore there is no disparity between the teachings of Paul, the Gospel of Christ, or the Law of Yahweh concerning these things.
Then in Romans chapter 13, after Paul speaks on the relationship of Christians to government, he returns to the topic of how Christians should treat one another: “8 You owe to no one anything, except to love one another: for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 Indeed you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not lust, and any other commandment is summarized in this saying, to wit: 'You shall love him near to you as yourself.' 10 Love for him near to you who does not practice evil: therefore fulfilling of the law is love.” As we explained when we discussed that chapter, Paul is not saying that love replaces the keeping of the law. Rather, Paul is saying that love is the keeping of the law! For that very reason Paul evoked those most familiar commandments which are from the law as admonishments to keep them.
This is cause to further discuss some aspects of Paul's admonitions concerning government in Romans chapter 13 which we did not take the opportunity to do when we first presented that chapter. The subjection of Israel to tyrannical governments as a punishment ordained from Yahweh does not mean that the Israelite who knows the law and the word of God should not keep it. Government is not an excuse to forsake the commandments of Christ. Daniel the prophet is a perfect example of this. When Daniel found favor with the Babylonians, as it is described in Daniel chapter 1, he and certain others were apportioned victuals from the table of the king. However Daniel and his fellows turned down the delicacies of the Babylonians in favor of a diet of vegetables, so that they would not violate the Hebrew dietary laws. Daniel was challenged in respect of this, and he prevailed through a demonstration of the efficacy of the law. Later, when Daniel was found refusing to submit to the Babylonian state-decreed religion, he and his friends were tried and they overcame that trial through their faith and by the hand of Yahweh. While Daniel prophesied many wonderful things, his life itself is a prophecy and a model for us until this very day. There are, however, other such examples as Daniel, such as the statement made by the apostles when they refused to desist from preaching the gospel, which is recorded in Acts chapter 5 where they said “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Paul said that “rulers are not a terror to good works”, and he cited the examples of the law in relation to what those good works are. While it is necessary for Christians to endure this trial of the governments of man, if they put their God first they too shall overcome this trial and be rewarded as Daniel was. It is not that rulers do not contradict the law of Yahweh, they certainly do. But Daniel and his fellows had no fear of the consequences when they remained obedient to Yahweh. Today's governments are becoming every bit as arrogant as the pharaoh of Egypt before the Exodus, and today the children of Israel await a similar deliverance.
In Romans chapter 12 Paul explained how it is that Christians should love one another. In Romans chapter 13 Paul explained that keeping the law is love for the people of Christ. Finally, here in Romans chapter 14 Paul discusses minor points of disagreement which Christians may have over things which may have been wrong to do in the Old Testament, under the old covenant when Israel was bound by the sacrificial rites and the judgments of the law, but which are actually a part of those Levitical and sacrificial laws which were done away with in Christ. From the first 8 verses of the chapter we see that these points of disagreement included the eating of meats sacrificed to idols and the celebration of Sabbaths and certain feasts, Then from verse 9 Paul says: “9 For this reason Christ died and lived, that He may be master of both the dead and the living. 10 Now why do you judge your brother? Or then, why do you despise your brother?” There are clearly things which Christians must agree upon, and those things are outlined in the commandments and the Gospel of Christ. However there are things which Christians may disagree upon, and with these we should not seek to cause divisions.
1 Now he who is weak in the faith you should not receive for the arguing of decisions.
If your brother's faith is not as strong as your own, if he perceives some things differently than you do, you should not have communion with him simply for the sake of arguing with him. Becoming friendly with someone for the purpose of arguing with them is pretense and it should be avoided.
[Of course, these early Christians did not have some of the problems regarding racial diversity and universalism that we have today. Therefore these comments are only made in respect to the body of Christ, Paul made them only in respect to the body of Christ, and it is robbery for us to think otherwise. Therefore today we must constantly bear that in mind when reading these passages individually. If your brother is gathering wolves and goats to the sheepfold, you cannot have communion with him at all.]
2 While one trusts to eat all things, yet another being weak eats [P46 and D have “must eat”] vegetables.
There was a dispute among 1st century Christians as to whether or not they may eat profane foods. This argument has nothing to do with things which are deemed by the law to be unclean, as profane and unclean are two different categories. Paul of Tarsus should not be blamed for organized Christianity's failure to recognize those categories. Paul tells us that his words here relate to profane foods in verse 14 of this chapter, although the popular translations wrongly interpret an important word in that verse. Here Paul is not comparing one sort of meat to another, but rather in a discussion of food in general he is contrasting meat to vegetables, which is fully elucidated by his words in verse 21. The Greek word for profane is often rendered as common. In Acts chapter 10 we see Peter declare that “I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.” The words common and unclean are contrasted by Peter three times in Acts chapters 10 and 11, and they refer to two different things. There are foods which are profane because they were treated inappropriately in accordance with God's law. However things which are deemed to be unclean by God's law are not food, nor should they ever be considered as food.
In 1 Corinthians chapters 8 and 10 we see more clearly than in this chapter of Romans that the dispute over profane foods related to pagan temple offerings. In 1 Corinthians chapter 10 Paul said “25 Eat all that is being sold in a market, by no means making an inquiry on account of conscience.... 28 But if anyone may say to you, ‘This is a temple offering,’ do not eat, on account of that person making the disclosure, and the conscience.” In the ancient world, unless one had his own estate from which to procure meat, one was forced to purchase meats from the markets. However the markets were supplied by, and were often adjacent to, the pagan temples where the animals were first sacrificed before they were parceled and the meat was sold. Because the meat in the markets was sacrificed to pagan idols, it was considered profane under the law of Yahweh and by early Christians. Those temples also served as the restaurants and lounges of the ancient Greek world, which is evident in 1 Corinthians chapter 8.
3 He who eats must not despise him that eats not; and he who eats not must not judge him that eats: indeed Yahweh has taken him to Himself. 4 Who are you to be judging another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he shall stand; indeed the Prince [D, 048 and the MT have “Yahweh”] is able to establish him.
In the English language of the 16th century the word meat meant food in general, and not merely the flesh of animals. Unfortunately, today this has an adverse affect upon the general understanding of Scripture because of the way the word is now understood. In the King James Version of the Bible, meat is food and not flesh. Paul tells us here that no Israelite shall fail by reason of eating profane foods, and therefore Christians should not condemn one another for that reason.
The words of Christ, from Mark chapter 7, from the Christogenea New Testament: “17 And when He had entered into a house away from the crowd, His students asked Him the parable. 18 And He says to them: ‘Thusly also are you without understanding? Do you not perceive that everything from outside entering into the man is not able to defile him 19 because it does not enter into his heart but into the belly, and it goes out into the latrine, cleansing all foods?’”
Now the King James Version and other translations have the word meat in Mark 7, and modern Christians argue that therefore Christians may eat swine. However the Greek word is βρῶμα which is that which is eaten, food, and not κρέας which is flesh, meat, a piece of meat. So it is evident that Yahshua Christ was talking about food generally, and not of meat specifically, and especially not of unclean things, which cannot be considered food if they are not something which was normally eaten.
5 While one distinguishes a day contrary to another day, yet another distinguishes every day. Each in his own mind must be fully assured.
The phrase ἡμέραν παρ᾽ ἡμέραν is literally only “a day contrary to a day”. The word “another” was added in order to better express Paul’s meaning in English.
The Roman calendar did not have weeks as we know them, but rather for each month it had a system of day-markers which were based on moon phases. The day-markers split the month into groups of days called Calends, Nones and Ides. Additionally, days of the month were marked by the Roman high priest with letters that designated their religious and civil significance. There were days prescribed when it was either prohibited or admissible to do things such as hold public assemblies, conduct sacrifices, initiate actions in courts of law, make official transactions, and for other activities. Roman society was regulated by these days according to the pagan Roman religion. Under such a system it was certainly difficult for Christians to live by a separate calendar, however Christians must have maintained the seven-day Sabbath cycle to some degree, because even though at that time Rome was still an officially pagan state, the seven-day cycle became a part of the Roman calendar in 321 AD.
It may be determined from Paul's statement here that already at this early time, Christians were not all celebrating the Old Testament Sabbaths and feast days with certain regularity. However Paul's statement is deeper than that simple observation. Paul's choices do not include the celebration of no Sabbath. But if every day of one's life is devoted to one's brethren and the building of the Kingdom of God, then one is indeed distinguishing every day. To the contrary, even now many Christians are only Sabbath-day Christians, and seem to forget about Christ for the other six days.
6 He who is observing the day, observes it with authority [here there is an interpolation in the MT and some later manuscripts which also appears in the KJV, and it adds the words “and he not observing the day, with authority observes it not”; the text of the CNT follows א, A, B, C, D, and 048; with that interpolation Paul seems to actively approve of forgoing the Sabbath, something which is not in the original manuscripts], and he who eats, eats with authority; for he gives thanks to Yahweh. And he who does not eat, with authority eats not, and he gives thanks to Yahweh.
Again, in reference to eating, Paul seeks to distinguish those Christians who chose not to eat meats sacrificed to the pagan idols of Rome from those who held that sacrifice to be of no esteem and who ate the meat anyway. This aspect of Paul's words becomes evident later in this discourse.
The occurrences of the Greek word κύριος in this verse are not accompanied with the definite article, and therefore, rather than being translated as Lord or Prince they are translated as the phrase “with authority”, since they all appear in the Dative case. In contrast, the three occurrences of κύριος at 14:8 are all accompanied with the definite article. Therefore where it appears in 14:8 the word is a noun, a Substantive.
This primary use of the word κύριος was completely ignored by the King James Version translators and all who have followed them: that the word is first a simple adjective in Greek, and it is only a title when it is used as a Substantive. Liddell & Scott have in their entry for κύριος: “I. of persons, having power or authority over, lord, or master of...absolute having authority...II. Not of persons, authoritative, decisive, dominant... authorised, ratified, valid...of times, etc., fixed, ordained, appointed...legitimate, regular, proper...of words, authorised, vernacular...” and then “B. as Substantive...a lord, master...”. Paul used κύριος in several places in this primary sense, as an adjective, approximately a dozen times in his epistles where it is (or should be) “with authority” or “by authority” here at Romans 14:6 (thrice); 1 Corinthians 11:11; 2 Corinthians 11:17 (with κατά); Ephesians 4:17 and 6:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; Philemon 20; “of authority” at Ephesians 6:4; and with παρά it is “as appropriate” at Ephesians 6:8 and 2 Timothy 1:18. In Luke's writing the use of the word κύριος as an adjective occurs twice, where with the Article in the Dative case τῷ κυρίῳ is rendered “with the authority” at Acts 14:23, and “with authority” at Acts 25:26.
7 Not one of us lives to himself, and not one dies to himself. 8 Therefore if either we were to live, in the Prince we live; or if we were to die, in the Prince we die: so if we were to live, or if we were to die, we are the Prince’s. 9 For this reason Christ died and lived, that He may be master of both the dead and the living.
Paul's teaching is in full accord with that of Peter, who said in his first epistle, in chapter 4: “1 Therefore with Christ suffering in the flesh, you also be equipped with the same mind, because he who suffers in the flesh ceases from wrongdoing, 2 for which no longer in the desires of men, but in the will of Yahweh should he live the remaining time in the flesh. [This is what Paul means by living 'in the Prince'.] 3 For enough of the time has passed perpetuating the will of the heathens, having walked in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revelries and lawless idolatries. 4 While they are astonished, they blaspheme at your not running together in the same excess profligacy. 5 They shall give an account to Him who holds ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 Indeed for this also to the dead the good message has been announced, that they may indeed be judged like men in the flesh, but live like Yahweh in the Spirit.”
The children of Israel belong to Yahweh their God. He redeemed them, so He owns them. There is no other choice in either life or in death. From Hosea chapter 13: “14 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.” From Isaiah chapter 52: “3 For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money.” For this reason, Paul said in 1 Corinthians chapter 6 “20 Indeed you have been purchased for a price; so then you honor Yahweh in your body.”
In Romans 14:4 Paul asked “Who are you to be judging another’s servant?” The children of Israel, having been redeemed by Yahweh through Christ, are indebted to be servants of Christ. Speaking of servitude in 1 Corinthians chapter 7, Paul said “22 For he who is called a bondman in the Prince is a freedman of the Prince; likewise he who is called free is a bondman of Christ. 23 You have been purchased for a price, you should not become slaves of men.” The children of Israel, having sold themselves into sin, indeed became the servants of men as it says in Isaiah chapter 42: “18 Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. 19 Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD'S servant? 20 Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not. 21 The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable. 22 But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore.”
Ancient Israel would have maintained their liberty in service to Yahweh their God. Captivity was a result of their disobedience. This concept has not changed, only now it is expressed in different terms. Christians can only have and keep true liberty by serving Christ. All of the children of Israel are servants of Yahweh, and all will ultimately comply. Paul illustrates this idea in the next two verses:
10 Now why do you judge your brother? Or then, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of Yahweh [048 and the MT have “Christ”]. 11 Indeed it is written, “I live, says the Prince, that to Me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess to God.”
The word ἐξομολογέω (Strong's # 1843), simply confess here, as a Deponent verb in the Medium Voice more accurately means “to confess in full … to make full acknowledgments, give thanks” (Liddell & Scott).
In verse 11 Paul is quoting Isaiah 45:23. In the context of the citation, the verse must be interpreted to mean that every knee of the children of Israel shall bow, and every tongue of the children of Israel shall confess to God. From Isaiah chapter 45: “17 But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end. 18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. 19 I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right. 20 Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations [meaning those Israelites who escaped the Assyrians and Babylonians, from the places to which they were brought]: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. 21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. 22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth [the dispersed of Israel]: for I am God, and there is none else. 23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. 24 Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. 25 In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.”
12 So then each of us [each Israelite] shall give to Yahweh [B wants the words rendered “to Yahweh”] an account concerning himself. 13 Now no longer should we judge one another, but rather determine this: do not put an obstacle in the way of a brother, or a trap [B has “do not put a trap in the way of a brother”].
The Greek word σκάνδαλον (Strong's # 4625), from where we get the English word scandal, is most literally a trap here. Often in the King James Version it is rendered as a cause for offense or more simply as offense. In the Christogenea New Testament it is also translated as trap in Romans 11:9, and in 1 Corinthians 1:23. The word occurs three other times in Paul, at Romans 9:33 where in the Genitive case and modifying the noun “rock” it is “of offense”; “scandal” at Romans 16:17, and “stumbling block” at Galatians 5:11.
In the Old Testament, things which caused one to violate Yahweh's laws were sometimes called traps. We read in Joshua chapter 23 of the nations of the Canaanites whom the children of Israel failed to exterminate, that “they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes”. Things which caused one to keep the law hypocritically were also seen as traps. Therefore in Psalm 69 we see a prophecy concerning those in Judah who would reject Christ: “22 Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.” Paul cited this very passage in Romans chapter 11, to show that the law of God would not benefit those who rejected Christ, but that instead it would entrap them because it would prove their hypocrisy. There is a similar analogy in Jeremiah chapter 5: “25 Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you. 26 For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men. 27 As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great, and waxen rich.” The law is not the trap. The breaking of the law, or a hypocritical keeping of a part of the law, that is one falling into the trap.
14 I know and have confidence by Prince Yahshua, that nothing is of itself profane: except to he who considers anything to be profane, to him it is profane.
Three times the word profane here is κοινός (Strong's # 2839), an adjective, and the verbal form of this word is κοινόω (Strong's # 2840), which is to consider or to deem profane (or common). According to Liddell & Scott the adjective κοινός is “common, shared in common...common to all the people, common, public, general...of meats, common, profane, New Testament” and the verb κοινόω is “to make common, communicate...to defile, profane...” Foods, which are things that are declared to be edible in the Old Testament, having been sanctioned in the Law by Yahweh, were able to be sanctified at the Hebrew altar and table. These foods could not be considered unclean, and the things which were deemed unclean by the Law could never be sanctified at the Hebrew altar , therefore unclean things could never be considered as food.
In Acts chapter 10 the apostle Peter uses the phrase “common [or profane] and unclean” in reference to food. From Acts chapter 10: “13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. 14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. 15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” Note that God did not make a reference to cleansing the unclean, which Peter mentioned, but only said “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.”
Things which were not sanctioned in the Old Testament, yet which other people may have been accustomed to eating, such as swine or shellfish, were certainly considered “unclean”, they were never considered to be food, and they should be rejected as food today. No cleansing ritual could sanctify them, and therefore they were not merely profane or common, but were unclean and never to be considered for consumption. Things that were considered foods, that were sanctioned in the Old Testament but which were handled or killed in a manner contrary to Old Testament law – and especially meats sacrificed on the altars of idols – those things were considered “common”, or “profane”. It is those things which Paul is addressing here in Romans chapter 14, and which he also addressed in 1 Corinthians chapters 8, 10 and 11.
This is a distinction which the King James Version often failed to make in translation, such as here at Romans 14:14 where three times κοινός is unclean and should instead have been profane or common. Therefore the King James Version has caused much confusion in relation to this topic. It is not alone, for the Geneva Bible of 1560 made the same error. Rather, the word for unclean is ἀκάθαρτος (Strong's # 169), as it is in Peter's words in the passage from Acts chapter 10 which we have cited. Paul never told the Romans or the Corinthians to eat unclean things, because unclean things are not food in the first place. Rather, he was telling them not to worry about eating common, or profane things, since if they had been mishandled or sacrificed to idols it really did not matter - the idols were not to be accounted by Christians.
From the Wisdom of Sirach, chapter 34:“4 Of an unclean thing what can be cleansed? and from that thing which is false what truth can come?”
To repeat verse 14 with these differences in mind: “14 I know and have confidence by Prince Yahshua, that nothing is of itself profane: except to he who considers anything to be profane, to him it is profane.”
In 1 Corinthians chapter 10 Paul asks “19 What then do I say? That that which is sacrificed to an idol is anything? Or that an idol is anything? ” If Christians do not esteem the idol, then the idol is nothing, and idolatry has no power over them. Therefore later in the same chapter, in relation to the same thing, Paul says “25 Eat all that is being sold in a market, by no means making an inquiry on account of conscience. 26 "For the earth is Yahweh’s and the fullness of it.” 27 Now if one of the unbelieving invites you, and you wish to go, eat all that is being set before you, by no means making an inquiry on account of conscience. 28 But if anyone may say to you, ‘This is a temple offering,’ do not eat, on account of that person making the disclosure, and the conscience. 29 But I mean not that conscience of yourself, but that of the other; for what reason is my freedom decided by another’s conscience?”
Under the law, the children of Israel could not even obtain meat from a foreign market, or eat the flesh of animals slain by aliens. If an animal was slaughtered in a manner contrary to Scripture, it was profane and it could not be eaten under the law. What is little understood is that there were also laws in place governing the use of other agricultural produce. In the law there are commands concerning firstfruit and heave offerings of such produce, and the offerings had to be made so that the produce could be sanctified. Paul hints at this where in Romans chapter 11 he stated “if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy”. In that manner, the children of Israel should only have eaten of produce that they themselves had grown, and the importation of such products for consumption was a transgression described in Hosea chapter 2.
Christians understand that being freed from the judgments of the law, they have liberty in Christ, something which was mentioned in other contexts by James, Peter and Paul. Christians are under the mercy of Christ and if they do eat something which is profane, that alone cannot diminish the salvation which they have in Christ so long as they have not partaken in any idolatry, whereby they could expect to be punished. Purchasing meat in a market or eating meat at a banquet and not having a concern for its origin, one has not sinned and one's conscience is clear. However if it is openly known that the meat was sacrificed to an idol, the Christian should abstain from it, not necessarily for his own sake but for the sake of those of his brethren who may present and be offended. Leading one's brother to be offended by one's disregarding the law, one sets a trap for his brother, or puts an obstacle in his path.
15 But if because of food your brother is distressed, no longer do you walk in accordance with charity [or love]. You must not with your food ruin that person for whose benefit Christ had died. 16 Therefore do not make him speak ill of your good; 17 indeed the Kingdom of Yahweh is not eating and drinking, but justice and peace and delight in the Holy Spirit.
Once again, the Greek word βρῶμα (Strong's # 1033) is that which is eaten, food, and therefore it is food throughout this chapter. Another word referring specifically to animal flesh as meat is κρέας (Strong's # 2907). Therefore the word κρέας is flesh as it appears here in Romans 14:21 and in a lengthier discourse on this same topic which is found in 1 Corinthians chapter 8, at verse 13. [Another word for flesh is σάρξ (Strong's # 4561), which is often used to describe the body as opposed to the spirit of a man, but not often used to describe flesh typically eaten by men.]
Here is what Paul said to the Corinthians concerning this same subject: “1 Now concerning things offered to idols we know, (because all the knowledge we have, the knowledge inflates, but love builds. 2 If one supposes to have known anything, not yet does he know according as there is need to know. 3 But if one loves Yahweh, this he knows by Him.) 4 Concerning then the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the Society, and that there is none other God except one. 5 And even though there are so-called gods, either in heaven or on earth, just as there are many gods and many lords, 6 but to us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Prince, Yahshua Christ, through whom are all things, and we through Him. 7 Yet not in all is that knowledge, but some in the custom of the idol until this time are nevertheless eating of that offered to an idol, and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us to terms with Yahweh; neither do we have an advantage if we would eat, nor do we come short if we would not eat. 9 But beware lest in any way by your license this would become an obstacle to those who are weak. 10 For if perhaps one should see you, who having knowledge are in an idol’s temple reclining at a meal, will not the conscience of him, being weak, be emboldened in regards to eating the things offered to idols? 11 Then will he who is weak be ruined by your knowledge, the brother for whose sake Christ had been slain? 12 Now in that manner, failing in regard for the brethren, and striking their weak consciences, towards Christ you fail. 13 On which account if meat offends my brother, I would not eat flesh for eternity, in order that my brother will not be offended.”
Paul is elucidating the fact that it is more important to keep the law and not to offend one's brother than it is to exercise one's Christian liberty. On the other hand, if we see a brother disregard these particular laws, knowing that we have such liberty in Christ we should not seek to condemn him. Some Christians would purposely not eat, believing that by not eating they better please God. Paul calls this group weak. Other Christians may purposely eat, seeking to proclaim their liberty and trust in Christ. Paul says that this group has no advantage in such eating. Bear in mind that all of this is only in relation to the laws governing the handling of food, which are a part of the ritual laws that Israel had been released from in Christ. However the commandment against idolatry is one of the moral laws of God which cannot fail.
The dispute Paul addresses here is basically whether food purchased in a pagan market is permissible to Christians. Paul tells us that it is, so long as we do not recognize the pagan idols. Obviously from the context of these addresses, many Christians nevertheless took offense to the eating of such food. Christians may disagree on where to draw the line, and what actually constitutes such idolatry. Paul tells us where to draw the line, in 1 Corinthians chapter 10: “14 On which account, my beloved ones, flee from idolatry. 15 As to those who are prudent I speak; you determine that which I say. 16 The cup of eulogy which we bless, is it not fellowship of the blood of Christ? The wheat-bread which we break, is it not fellowship of the body of Christ? 17 Because one loaf, one body, we the many are, for we all partake from the one loaf. 18 Behold Israel down through the flesh: are not those who are eating the sacrifices partners of the altar? 19 What then do I say? That that which is sacrificed to an idol is anything? Or that an idol is anything? 20 Rather, that whatever the Nations sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to Yahweh. Now I do not wish for you to be partners with demons. 21 You can not drink of the cup of the Prince, and the cup of demons; you can not partake of the table of the Prince, and of the table of demons. 22 Or do we provoke the Prince to jealousy? Are we stronger than Him?”
The idol is nothing, and the meat is nothing except what we esteem it to be, as Paul said here in verse 14 “nothing is of itself profane: except to he who considers anything to be profane, to him it is profane.” But we must draw the line at our table. If we partake with those who sacrifice to devils, then we cannot partake in Christ. Therefore we must exclude pagans and aliens from our communion, and Paul expounds further on this in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. This is why Paul advised that Christians may eat whatever food they desire, but if it is made evident that the food was sacrificed to an idol, that they should abstain.
These disputes upon which Paul counseled these early Christians do indeed have valid application for Christians today. For instance, today we have Mexican, African and Asian aliens working in our meat processing plants, doing the slaughtering and all the preparation of our meat for market. Do Christians eat such meat? Furthermore, many of the restaurant workers are also aliens, so aliens are almost certain to have had a hand in the preparation of nearly any food item we may eat, unless we are fortunate enough to raise our own food on our own estates and be able to prepare it ourselves. Even worse, today there is a proliferation of meat products marked not only as “kosher”, but also as “halal”. Meat marked “halal” is dedicated to the idol of islam before it is slaughtered, otherwise it cannot be marked “halal”. Do Christians eat that meat? And if they reject it, is “halal” meat really any worse than “kosher” meat which is only “kosher” because some devil has been paid to approve of it? Where do Christians draw the line? First century Christians disagreed on these things, and so may we. But what Paul is telling us which is more important, is that we should not distress or hypocritically judge our brethren if they partake of or abstain from such food.
Likewise, Paul wrote in Hebrews chapter 13: “9 Do not be carried away with strange and diverse teachings, for the good heart is confirmed by favor, not foods, by which those who walk have no advantage.” The prescripts of the Pharisees went far beyond the laws of Moses regarding food and its preparation, and we should not be trapped in them.
When and whether we should celebrate the Sabbaths, and how we should do so, when and whether we should keep feasts, and how we should do so, when and whether we should consider any foods to be profane, and if we may eat them, these are all within the bounds of legitimate Christian disagreement. Of course, there are many other things we may add to this list as well. But disagreeing in respect of these things, we should not distress or alienate our brethren.
18 He who in this is serving the Anointed is acceptable to Yahweh, and esteemed by men. 19 So then, we should pursue those things of peace, and [D has “and keep”] those things for the building of one another.
Of course verse 18 may have been read in part “he who is serving the Christ”, however the Christian Israelite who is serving the anointed people of Christ is indeed serving Christ, and the Christian who seeks to serve Christ serves His people. Seeking to serve the body of Christ goes beyond the statutes and ordinances of the law. Of course, we cannot break Yahweh's moral laws encapsulated in the ten commandments, and claim to be loving or serving our brethren. Neither can we claim to love our brother and cause him distress over these minor disagreements. We certainly should not condemn our brethren in regards to things which we may have done, or may do ourselves, which Paul references here in verse 23.
From Matthew chapter 18: “23 For this reason the kingdom of the heavens is compared to a man who is king, who had desired to take an account together with his servants. 24 And upon beginning to take it one had been brought to him, a debtor of ten thousand talents. 25 And not having it to repay the master ordered him to be sold, and the wife and the children and everything whatever he has, and to be repaid. 26 Then falling down the servant made obeisance to him, saying ‘Have patience with me, and I shall repay everything to you!’ 27 Then being deeply moved the master of that servant released him and forgave the loan for him. 28 And departing that servant found one of his fellow-servants, who owed a hundred denarii to him, and seizing him he strangled him saying ‘Repay anything you owe!’ 29 Then falling down his fellow-servant exhorted him saying ‘Have patience with me, and I shall repay you!’ 30 But he did not desire, rather departing he cast him into prison until he would repay that which is owed. 31 Therefore seeing the things which happened his fellow-servants grieved exceedingly and going they explained to their own master all the things which happened. 32 Then summoning him, his master says to him: ‘Wicked servant! I forgave you for all that debt, since you exhorted me! 33 Had it not been necessary also for you to have mercy for your fellow-servant, as even I had mercy for you? 34 And his master being angry handed him over to the torturers until when he should repay all that which is owed. 35 Thusly also shall My heavenly Father do to you, if you would not each forgive his brother from your hearts.”
20 You must not destroy the work of Yahweh on account of food. Certainly all things are clean [meaning all things which are food], but are evil to the man who must eat in offense.
If you must eat in offense, you should not eat since your conscience is more important than your belly, and your brother should be esteemed even beyond either of those. Therefore if your brother is offended, you must abstain.
21 It is good not to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything in which your brother takes offense at, or is trapped by, or is sickened.
The Greeks also made oblations of wine to their pagan idols, and the wine dedicated to the idol would be served in the temples.
The Codex Sinaiticus (א) and the 9th century Codex Porphyrianus (P 025) read here at the end of the verse “...nor anything by which your brother is grieved.” Further, the Codices Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi Syri (C) and the 5th century Codex Vaticanus Graecus (048) all want the words “or is trapped by, or is sickened”; the text agrees with the 3rd century papyrus P46 and the Codices Vaticanus (B), Claromontanus (D) and also the Majority Text.
22 Do you have faith? [Nestle-Aland does not mark the clause as a question.] Have it concerning yourself in the presence of Yahweh. Blessed is he who does not condemn that in which he himself approves.
In other words, blessed is he who is not a hypocrite. If one eats something prepared by an alien one day, and refuses the next, is he not a hypocrite? If one eats something marked “kosher” and refuses something marked “halal”, is he not a hypocrite? If one lambasts his brother for not keeping the sabbath on a certain day, yet the day upon which one keeps the sabbath is not the day ordained in the law, is one not a hypocrite? The best way not to be a hypocrite is not to condemn ones brethren over things which are not of the commandments of Christ, even if one cannot come to an agreement on the issues.
From Matthew chapter 7, the words of Christ concerning hypocritical judgment: “1 Do not condemn, in order that you would not be condemned. 2 For with the judgment by which you condemn, you shall be judged, and with the measure by which you measure, it shall be measured with you. ”
23 But he that makes a distinction, if then he eats, has been condemned, because it is not from faith; and all which is not from of faith is an error.
The Greek phrase μὴ κρίνων, “does not condemn”, may have been written as “does not judge”. The same is true of the word as it appears in Matthew chapter 7. The Christogenea New Testament often prefers the stronger translation in order to elucidate the consequence of such judgment as the word was understood in the original language.
As the apostle James said in his epistle, in the second chapter: “10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” If one makes a distinction today, and chastises our brother for eating certain food, if we have ever done likewise then we have condemned ourselves before God. For this same reason James continued by saying: “11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”
Discussing the law from which Israel was freed in Christ, which James refers to as the “law of liberty”, Paul summarized all of this by saying in Colossians chapter 2 “16 Therefore no one must judge you in food and in drink, or in respect of feast or new month or of the Sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of future things. Whereas the body is of the Anointed 18 let no one find you unworthy of reward...”
If you visit a Christian household and they celebrate the Sabbath on a Sunday, you should follow likewise even if you think the Sabbath should be on Saturday. You do so because loving your brother is more important than the letter of the law under which all of Israel has been condemned. Christ Himself, quoting Hosea chapter 6, said “7 But if you had known why it is ‘Mercy I desire and not sacrifice’, you would not have condemned the guiltless! 8 For the Son of Man is Prince of the Sabbath!”
If you visit a Christian household, and they serve beef bought in the markets and marked “kosher”, perhaps not knowing the significance, then you should overlook your brother's ignorance in favor of enjoying his charity. But then again, perhaps your brother knows better than you, that the blessing of a devil cannot really change the nature of the meat. However if your brother is in your home and objects to the so-called “kosher” meat, throw it away and eat the vegetables, because you do not want to offend your brother. If your path is guided in the understanding of faith and mercy, you will not be found to be a hypocrite.