There are many passages in scripture commonly quoted off point and out
of context to demonstrate that the Law of God is abolished.
This simply is not true. Romans Chapter 14 is one such
passage, but a proper understanding will demonstrate that
Romans 14 supports the following of God's law. If you
would like to read my articles starting from chapter one,
please click here.
The main problem with a false understanding of Romans
chapter 14 is poor biblical exegesis. Remember, a
proper biblical understanding always comes from the
scriptures for, "no prophecy of the scripture
is of any private interpretation" (2 Pet. 1:20). We need to use the
scripture to interpret the scripture, but how does the
scripture tell us to study? The answer is simple.
We need to study the scripture like a lawyer would study the
law. We need to keep in mind
that the Bible is a law book. It
is written in legal code as Isaiah 28:9-14 demonstrates.
The proper way to study the scriptures is what a lawyer
would call, "code pleading." Isaiah tells us that the
scripture is written, "line upon line" and
precept." This means we need to get the immediate
context to have a proper understanding. Isaiah 28 also
says the scripture is written, "here a little, and there a
little." This means we need to find all the passages
of a given topic to have a full understanding of that topic.
For more understanding on how to study the Bible please read
"How to Study."
With this in mind, lets try to get a full understanding of
what Paul is saying in Romans chapter 14.
Disputations: (Romans 14:1-13)
Paul starts out admonishing believers in, "doubtful
disputations" (Rom. 14:1). This chapter deals with
things not clearly explained in scripture which is why they
are referred to as doubtful. It is an error to
identify things that are clearly defined in scripture, such
as dietary laws (Lev. 11, Deut. 14) and Sabbath laws (Lev. 23) as, "doubtful disputations." Unfortunately, most believers
use Romans 14 for just such an interpretation. We will
see that this simply is not true. The Roman believers
are instructed to, "receive ye" the one who is,
"weak in the
faith" (Rom. 14:1). Paul is speaking of a,
brother in the Lord. He is weak because he practices
vegetarianism and eats only "herbs" (Rom. 14:2). It is
not that vegetarianism is wrong or a sin. The law of
God does not require anyone to avoid vegetarianism, but
someone who only eats herbs is considered weak because they
are not aware of what the scriptures truly teach. We
are not to judge someone because of this, but rather, allow
for grace for believers to learn God's law and follow it
(Rom. 14:3). Despite this weakness, "God is able to
make him stand" (Rom. 14:4). We are not the judge of
another man, God is. If someone wants to eat only
vegetables it is okay. They do have the liberty to eat
meat, but they are not required to.
The next verse is commonly quoted off point and out of
context to say the scriptural holydays, including the
Sabbath, no longer apply for today. Paul says, "One
man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every
day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own
mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the
Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth
not regard it" (Rom. 14:5-6). If this is referring to
holydays such as the Sabbath, then it appears that we now
get to decide how to practice such holydays. It is
now up to our persuasion and feelings, as long as it is, "unto the Lord." This is a dangerous interpretation
for it allows us to go against what God clearly stated in
His word regarding such holydays. We now tell God how
we will practice His law. The truth is, the second
half of verse six answers this question. Here is verse
six in it's entirety, "He that regardeth the day, regardeth
it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the
Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the
Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to
the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks" (Rom. 14:6).
This day in question is a day regarded unto the Lord of, "eating" or, "not eating."
This day referred here is a fast day, not a holy day. This makes sense
for fast days are, "doubtful disputations." They are
not clearly defined in scripture, which gives believers
liberty to practice how they desire. The only
commandment requiring fasting is on the Day of Atonement
(Lev. 23:27, Acts 27:9). Any other fast is at our own
In fact, vegetarianism is a type of fast according to the
scripture. Daniel fasted for three weeks eating no "flesh," nor
"pleasant bread," nor "wine," but only eating
vegetables (Dan. 1:12-13, Dan. 10:3). Though this is
an example of a fast, it is not a requirement in the
scriptures, which makes it a, "doubtful disputation."
It is poor biblical exegesis to interpret these, "days" as
Sabbath days when the word Sabbath appears no where in the
entire book of Romans, especially since the immediate
context is that of eating or not eating. This is
clearly a fast day, which was common in the first century to
practice as often as once per week. Paul's point is to,
"Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge
this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion
to fall in his brother's way" (Rom. 14:13). Since
the scripture is silent on how we should practice fast days
(except the Day of Atonement), then we should allow people
to fast as they see fit. I should not try to persuade
someone to fast as I do and they should not try to persuade
me to fast as they do.
Unclean Meats: (Romans
We now move into the next part, which is commonly
misunderstood to say all meats are now clean. Paul
says, "I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that
there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that
esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean"
(Rom. 14:14). The word translated as, "unclean" is an
unfortunate mistranslation. This is the Greek word
koinos which means, "common, ceremonial profane"
(Strong's Concordance G2839). This is not the word for
unclean foods from Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.
The Greek word for unclean is akathartos which
means, "impure, foul, unclean" (Strong's Concordance G169).
The proof text for this is Acts 10:14 where Peter uses both
words in the same sentence. This is in response to the
vision he received from the Lord telling him to eat all
sorts of unclean animals. Peter said he has never
eaten anything common or unclean. Here is a clear
distinction. Unclean animals are animals God himself
commanded not to eat. These are found in Leviticus
chapter 11 and Deuteronomy chapter 14. Common animals
are animals that are normally clean, but defiled because of
other biblical laws such as, "dying of itself"
(Lev. 22:8) or
the blood was not drained (Lev. 17:13-14, Lev. 3:17).
This type of clean food was common because it was allowed to
be given to Gentiles (Deut. 14:21). The Pharisees took
this to another extreme. They added otherwise clean
meat offered to idols as common and not acceptable to eat.
This is not scriptural and what is most likely happening in
the church at Rome.
It is likely that the meat discussed in Romans 14 refers to
meat sacrificed to idols. The weak believer is
uncomfortable eating meat offered to idols, even if it were
clean. Paul dealt with the same problem in the
Corinthian church as well (1 Cor. 8:4-7). As a result,
"if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou
not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for
whom Christ died" (Rom. 14:15). We are not to stumble
our brother who follows the common laws of the Pharisees.
When in their presence follow them as well so as to not be a
stumbling block to them. Following the common laws is
not against the scripture and is a, "doubtful disputation."
Remember, the Greek word for, "meat" is brōma which
means, "that which is eaten, food" (Strong's Concordance
G1033). This word is always used to refer to food
intended to eat. It comes from the Greek word
bibrōskō which means, "to eat: - eat" (Strong's Concordance
G977). This word used in Romans 14 always assumes food
intended to eat. This further solidifies the
understanding that Paul is not allowing for the eating of
unclean foods, but common foods from the Pharisees.
The Roman believers were to follow after peace and, "Let not
then [their] good be evil spoken of" (Rom. 14:16).
Since the eating of common foods was not against the
scriptures, as the Pharisees saw it, they should avoid, "doubtful disputations" and follow after peace (Rom. 14:19).
"For the kingdom of God is not meat (brōsis -
eating) and drink (posis - drinking)" (Rom. 14:17).
God's kingdom is not about eating and drinking, but
"righteousness." For, "meat destroy not the work of
God" (Rom. 14:20). Paul then continues saying,
things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who
eateth with offence" (Rom. 14:20). The word for pure
here is katharos and is defined as, "clean, clear,
pure" (Strong's Concordance G2513). Since the word for
"meat" is brōma which refers only to meat that is
acceptable to eat (Strong's Concordance G1033 - "that which
is eaten, food"), then what Paul is saying is that all clean
meat is acceptable to eat, even though it was sacrificed
unto idols. The mention of wine in the next verse is
further proof that Paul is speaking of common foods rather
than unclean foods (Rom. 14:21). Wine is not even
mentioned in the Bible in reference to clean or unclean.
This could only be in reference to the Pharisees laws
regarding common (koinos) foods. But, "Happy
is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he
alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat,
because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of
faith is sin." (Rom. 14:22-23). Again, Paul is
speaking of, "doubtful disputations," or, that which is not
clearly defined in scripture.
Romans 14 is difficult to understand, but we should always
error on the side of God being right and us being wrong.
God clearly told us what foods to eat and what foods not to
eat. The New Testament even confirms this in Acts
15:19-20 where the Apostles write to the Gentiles that they
not only follow idolatry and adultery laws, but also follow
the dietary laws as well. When faced with a verse that
seems to show differently, we should error on the side of
caution and assume God was right in the first place.
The Apostle Paul no where in Romans 14 states that the
Sabbath is done away with nor the unclean foods are done
away with. With a proper understanding of the Mosaic
law the only conclusion is that Paul is here clarifying a,
"doubtful disputation" that is not clear in the Mosaic law.