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Does Romans 14 teach it is ok to eat unclean foods?

Many now believe, Christians are no longer forbidden to eat unclean meats which is pronounced as an abomination unto God in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. We will use romans 14 out of context to prove this theology; but is that really what Paul was conveying to us?

“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.” Romans 14:14

Context: Paul was writing about a problem of judging among the apostolic believers. Verses 4, 10, and 13 exhort against the sin of judging one another. And it was true that a serious division existed in that early church. The Gentile Christians were judging the Jewish Christians, and the Jewish Christians were judging the Gentile Christians.

What did the previous verse say concerning this problem?

“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.” Romans 14:13.

What was the stumbling block between the Jews and Gentiles?

“But meat commendeth us not to God: 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 stumblingblock to them that are weak.” 1 Corinthians 8:8-9

Why was meat a stumbling block to the weak(Gentiles)?

“But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit 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. ” 1 Corinthians 8:6-7

Answer: The Gentiles who came into the church from paganism, because of their background of the meats offered to idols; their conscience would be defiled if they were to eat those meats. They esteemed the food unfit to be eaten. It would have reminded them of their past, and was grounds they dear not venture upon lest they fell back into their old sins of eating unto idols.

What else did Paul say concerning the previous question?

“For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols” 1 Corinthians 8:10

What then was the diet of the Gentiles?

” For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. ” Romans 14:2

 Answer: Some of the Gentile converts were so fearful of eating meat offered to idols that they ate only vegetables.

Were the foods offered to idols unclean?

“Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.” Acts 14:13

Answer: Jupiter a god/idol of the Greeks or Gentiles were offered clean animals (Lev 11) when sacrifices were made.

Note: The meats offered to idols which the Jews also ate were not unclean animals, but was just esteemed by the Gentile believers to be. Hence, the problem with the Jews and Gentile believers had nothing to do with the moral question of the forbidden unclean meats, but it was that of casting judgments upon each other.

What was Paul’s counsel to the Jewish members who were judging the Gentile members?

“For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.” 1 Corinthians 8:10-12

Answer: He told the Jews not to eat the food offered to idols if they were in the presence of those who thought it to be wrong; even though they had knowledge that the idol was nothing.

Why else were the Jewish Christians judging the Gentiles?

“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” Romans 14:5

Answer: They did because the gentiles had no regard for the ceremonial days that they still observed from Judaism.

How do we know judgments were also cast because of ceremonial observances?

” Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.” Colossians 2:16

Note: This issue of judging was addressed by Paul, because it was prevalent in his time. Also, notice they judged not  only in meat but also of Sabbaths days which is not referring to the seventh day Sabbath spoken of in the ten commandments but ceremonial Sabbath days the Jews were observing.

 

These matters had nothing to do with the moral questions of the seventh-day Sabbath(Exodus 20:8-11) or the forbidden unclean meats(Leviticus 11). Paul was teaching the Church a deeper issue of judging another. The bible teaches, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. ” Mathew 7:1. Are we today are controlled by the same spirit, and cast judgments upon our brother or sisters? Paul then asked the church, “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. ” Romans 14:10 Are you ready for that judgment day?

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