Unity Amongst Diversity
“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith [“faith”: religious set of beliefs] allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down upon him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be called the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:
‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’
So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food [margin: that nothing] is unclean of itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. [The very word “unclean” is taken from the wording in Leviticus 11, which describes what is inedible in God’s Old Testament dietary code, written into God’s Old Testament Law] If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved of men.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.
So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:1-23)
First, let us understand the background of the early Church of God which was in Rome, and even how it came to be. On the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the 120 disciples of Jesus, a huge crowd of God-fearing Jews who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover-Pentecost Holy Day season witnessed this awesome miracle, and many of them were called by God into the early Judeo-Christian Church. Many of these early believers were from the far corners of the Roman Empire, and many of them must have returned to their native lands and homes after their funds ran out. The early Church of God in Rome must have been entirely Jewish, and Torah observant Jewish, when these new believers returned from Jerusalem after their conversion in Acts 2. Torah observant Jews, in Exodus 23:14-17, were commanded to return to Jerusalem for the three Holy Day seasons on a regular basis (as funds allowed). Pentecost, or Shevuot (Exodus 23:16) was one of these Holy Day “seasons”. Acts 2 mentions this crowd. Let’s look at Acts 2:1-11, “When the day of Pentecost came, they [the 120 disciples of Jesus] were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs---we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!...” How many of these visitors, eyewitnesses to this miracle of the Holy Spirit, were called into the early Church of God in Jerusalem? Verse 41, “Those who accepted his message [Peter’s sermon, verses 14-40] were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” So, we can be pretty sure that those Torah observant Jews from Rome, now new believers, returned to Rome and founded the Roman Church of God. These Jewish believers, like the whole early Church in Jerusalem, were Torah-observant Judeo-Christians, observing Sabbath and Holy Days.
From here through the next two pages gives the Gentile Sunday-observing Christian interpretation on Romans 14, verses 5-6. Be careful to understand it is not the Sabbath-observing Christian’s interpretation nor that of the Torah-observant Messianic Jewish believers in Jesus. To read an article about what the Sabbath-observing Christians believe on this topic, log onto: Was the Sabbath Abrogated?
Now we come to the time of Paul’s letter, written in the winter of 57-58 AD while Paul was in Corinth at the close of his third missionary journey. Much of the Church of God is non-Torah observant after Acts 15. (The Council of Acts 15 took place around AD 50.) But we find the Roman Church is composed of a mixture of Gentile Italians (of pagan extraction) and Torah-observant Messianic Jews, who undoubtedly were the early founders of the Church of God in Rome. Halley in his Handbook says this about Romans 14, confirming it was an issue arising between Torah observant Jewish believers and Gentile believers—the two major groups in this congregation, which were now chaffing at each other over Days of Worship and dietary laws. Halley thinks the meat issue was over meat sacrificed to idols, which would be offensive to Jewish believers, but it could also have referred to meat in general which may have been tainted with pork from the Roman meat markets. Either way, those meat markets sold a lot of meat that had been sacrificed to idols, and then sold to these markets by the temples, in order to turn a second profit on it. Such would have been offensive to Torah observant Jewish believers. Halley says this “In such things as the eating of Meats and the observing of Days. The Meats referred to, though it is not so specified, must be Meat that had been offered in sacrifice to idols (see I Corinthians 8). As for Days, reference must be to Jewish insistence that Gentiles observe the Sabbath and other Jewish Festival Days…” There was a huge dispute over Days of worship (which incidentally, most of the Judeo-Christian churches in Asia Minor were still observing the Sabbath and Holy Days). But we find by the very wording of Romans 14, that the Jewish believers Paul was talking about, especially as he is mentioning Days of worship and dietary practices, were Torah-observant Jewish believers. Halley and other’s, with a Gentile Christian bias, think it was the Jewish believers that were beating up on the Gentile believers, but careful reading of Romans 14 shows it was the other way around. Paul cautioned what was obviously the Gentile believers to not offend the Christian conscience of the others (the Jewish believers) over Meats, what they ate and drank. Gentile believers wouldn’t have cared about what they ate or drank. Bring on the bacon and ham sandwiches! Many believers like to interpret Romans 14 as addressing the issue of vegetarians, when nothing could be further from the truth. If these Jewish believers were making themselves vegetarians, it was only so they wouldn’t transgress the Old Testament Law, and not out of any new or weird doctrine about needing to be vegetarians. The central point of what Paul shows in Romans 14 is that choice of Days of Worship and Levitical dietary laws have been made optional for the believers, while the other 9 Commandments are still to be found in full force in the New Testament. Verses 5-6 of Romans 14, when taken in the Jewish-Gentile context they were originally written in, clearly show choice in Days of Worship and dietary laws as being optional for the believer. Verses 5-6, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special [which the Jews obviously did], does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.” Paul even warns the Gentile believers not to offend the conscience of the Jewish believers, who were still convinced by their strict Jewish upbringing, that the Sabbath and Holy Days and dietary laws were not optional. That was the whole purpose of his statement in verses 22-23, “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” From the subject of whom Paul is addressing when he says “whatever you believe…keep between yourself and God” is obviously addressed to the Gentile believer, for at the end of verse 23 Paul shows that he who eats these meats which obviously transgress the Jewish conscience, and doesn’t do so in faith, is condemned. And his instruction is that those who understand the optional nature of these OT dietary laws is to “keep it to himself.” This would indicate that there may have been more Torah-observant Jewish believers in the congregation than Gentiles, and that it was the Gentile believers that were “beating up” on the Jewish ones.
Before we begin I’d like to define two Messianic Jewish terms which I choose to use throughout this website, simply because they carry no derogatory or slanderous overtone for the group each defines. Torah- observant: This term defines either a Messianic Jewish or Sabbatarian Church of God believer or denomination that adheres to the Old Testament 10-Commandment Law of God, including Holy Days of Leviticus 23 and dietary laws of Leviticus 11, coupled to the New Testament spiritual intent of the Law defined in Matthew 5 by Jesus. Non-Torah observant: This term defines most Gentile Christians and also most Messianic Jewish believers. An individual or denomination that is non-Torah observant is one who adhere’s to the New Testament “Law of Christ” which is basically 9 of the 10 Commandments, while understanding that choice in “Days of Worship” have been made voluntary, up to the believer and the denomination he or she attends. The non-Torah observant Jewish believers in Yeshua keep the Old Testament Holy Days and dietary laws as their choice out of ethnic preference. The Gentile Christians adhere to Sunday/Christmas/Easter as their choice of Days of Worship.
Does Romans 14:5-6 abrogate the 7th Day Sabbath?
I have searched the various Christian commentaries (most have online versions for easy access) on the Romans 14, verses 5-6 question of what was meant, such as, did Romans 14:5-6 refer to “days of worship” such as Sunday verses Jewish Sabbath, which is Saturday? I found almost all the commentaries interpreted verses 5 through 6 in the category of referring to “days of worship”. What that means, in effect, is that these all interpret Romans 14:5-6 as showing choice in “days of worship” and “dietary practices” as being optional choices for the believer during the Church Age. (They won’t be an optional choice during the Millennial Kingdom of God. Sabbath and Old Testament dietary laws will be in full effect after Jesus returns. Even honest Sunday observing theologians know that is true, so stop your gloating, you Sunday observers.) I did find one Sabbatarian source (obviously defending the 7th Day Sabbath, and their belief that the Fourth Commandment is commanded for all Christians) which interprets verse 5 and 6 as talking about special fast days that the Jews kept, and that verses 5-6 were not talking about “days of worship” such as the Sabbath verses Sunday, or “clean verses unclean meats” described in Leviticus 11, but were talking about this special fast day “custom of the Jews” which had carried over into the early Judeo-Christian Church in Rome. (Even the Messianic Jews don’t follow that interpretation, showing it’s a shot-in-the-dark interpretation.) I will say this though, and take this seriously: Since Romans 14:5-6 and Acts 15 (especially see verses 19-24) are the only two places in the whole Bible, New Testament and Old Testament, that indicate the 4th Commandment has been made optional, some believers find it very hard to believe that one whole commandment out of the Ten Commandments has been temporarily abrogated during the Church Age (ie, Pentecost 31AD to 2nd Coming of Christ). That is a pretty strong argument for Sabbath keeping, in itself. Most who follow that logic are Sabbath keepers. Also in Matthew 5:17-19, when Jesus stated that the Law of God was not done away, by his very description of that Law, “one jot or one tittle” are Hebrew terms, and the tittle is the smallest stroke in a Hebrew letter---Jesus was obviously referring to the Old Testament Law of God by the very context of wording in verses 18-19. This is another powerful argument that the 4th Commandment has not been abrogated, the way Sabbath observers see it. Also Hebrews chapter 4, verse 9 reads in the reliable King James Version, marginal rendering (which reflects the accurate Greek rendition) “There remaineth a keeping of a sabbath to the people of God.” The King James translators obviously made this a marginal rendering because in 1611 it was not a popular concept in the Church of England then. But lest you think Sabbath keepers are a quirk of the 20th century, they have a very long history that goes back to the early Christian Church and the disciples of the apostle John in Asia Minor (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm, and see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/historycog1.htm for some of their more recent history in the United States). This whole chapter is about the importance of Christian conscience guiding your beliefs and subsequent religious practices. If you honestly come to the conclusion that the Bible does not abrogate the 7th Day Sabbath, and the Holy Days of Leviticus 23 and the Old Testament dietary laws, then the apostle Paul warns you in Romans 14:22-23, that if that is what you believe, you had better follow that belief. We’re more judged by God on following what we sincerely believe he teaches us to do in the Bible, ie our motives, than by what others may teach about what the Bible teaches when that teaching appears to be a gray area of understanding. Hope I didn’t confuse you with that last sentence. But what it boils down to is this, if you believe the Bible says “thus and such”, you’d better follow “thus and such”, for you’ll be judged on that. This paper on Romans 14 was essentially not written for Sabbath keepers, but for Sunday observing Christians who have been beating up on Sabbath keeping Christians, sometimes calling them cults. That must stop. This paper was written to show you Sunday observing guys that Sabbath/Holy Day observing Christians are real Christians too. If you are a Sabbath observing Christian, don’t you dare stop keeping the Sabbath and Holy Days, for that would be going against your Christian conscience. Personally, and this is just me, I believe the Sabbath and Holy Days of God have far more Biblical symbolic and prophetic meaning and significance than do Sunday, Christmas and Easter, all of which have pagan origins. I have tried to stay neutral and honest, but that’s my personal belief. I have witnessed the indwelling Holy Spirit in both Sunday and Sabbath keeping churches, ministries, and individuals. To me, that’s proof enough about where God lies on the subject, for it is he who places his Holy Spirit in believers making them Christians (read Romans 8:1-16). God by divine act makes people believers, after they hear the Gospel and go through an initial repentance and are baptized. I see the evidence that he’s placed his Holy Spirit in both groups, so there you have it. We’ll find out what the proper interpretation of what Paul wrote in Romans 14:5-6 and what Luke wrote in Acts 15:19-24 is when Jesus returns. For now, you must choose the interpretation which you sincerely believe is correct (not that which is most convenient for you, that’s cheating). Gentile Sunday-observing Christians believe it really looks like the Old Testament Torah law is being put aside in Acts 15:19-24, 25-29 for Gentile Christians, which would include two major items, “Hebrew dietary practices” and “days of worship”, which is exactly what Paul was addressing in Romans 14. And yet, throughout the whole New Testament, especially the Epistles, 9 out of the 10 Commandments are definitely re-commanded, and this, at their higher spiritual intent, as Jesus did in Matthew 5:17-48. Again, according to Sunday-observing Christians by all appearances the entire Old Testament system, ordinances and sacrifices, apparently, taking Acts 15:19-24 and Romans 14:5-6 into account, have been temporarily set aside. I say temporarily, because at Jesus Christ’s return, the whole Old Testament system of Law will be enforced worldwide, as the ‘Law of the Land.’ (see especially Zechariah 14:16-19, which not only talks of everyone having to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, i.e. God’s Holy Days, but sacrifices as well.) The re-iteration of 9 of the 10 Commandments in the New Testament and Epistles is called by many Gentile Christians ‘The Law of Christ’ to distinguish it from the ‘Old Testament Law of God.’ That is the issue here, and that is why it is such a grey area in Scripture. But Paul states that you must be convinced in your own mind as to which is correct (Romans 14:22-23). The Old Testament Law of God, the way it was designed, was not merely a law to govern a church, but a national law created by God to run a civil government and a nation. When Jesus returns, obviously, a national, and international law will be needed. Thus the Old Testament Law of God comes right back into force, as Jesus Christ will be King of the earth (Zechariah 14:9). What did the Early Christian Church observe, and even look like doctrinally? See http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htmfor a good historic study on that subject.
This next section is written specifically for Sunday-observing Christians, going by and giving their doctrinal interpretation for Romans 14, (as well as giving them a well-deserved correction). Understand, this website is not taking sides, one way or the other in this centuries-old debate. On a personal note, while I fully understand how to properly explain the Sunday-observer’s doctrinal beliefs on Romans 14 and Acts 15:19-24, I am a Sabbath/Leviticus 23 Holy Day observing believer in Yeshua haMeshiach (Jesus Christ).
“A powerful message about unity in the body of Christ--legislation on the Christian conscience--and a powerful correction for Gentile Christian denominations”
First let’s get the context of the book of Romans. It was written to a congregation of believers in Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire. These believers in Jesus or Yeshua came from mixed cultural backgrounds. But there were two or three major groups within this congregation. I will be dealing with the two major groups, as the others tended to fall in line with either the one or the other of these two cultural groups. The two major divisions in this congregation was that of the Torah observant Messianic Jewish believers and non-Torah observant Gentile believers, probably Roman Italians. As we read through Romans 14, it will become evident to Sabbatarians and Messianic believers in Jesus alike that Paul is talking about Torah observant Messianic Jews as well as Gentile believers in this chapter. What he is saying carries a profound message for the entire body of Christ, about how we as Christians, no matter what denomination we come from, ought to be treating our other brothers in Christ. This also is speaking very powerfully about how we that are Gentile Christian believers ought to be treating our Messianic Jewish believer brothers and sisters in Christ--even the Torah observant ones, since that is one of the two major groups Paul is talking about here. What Paul says here also speaks powerfully towards how we Gentile believers ought to be treating our Sabbatarian brethren, who, incidentally fall pretty much under the same category doctrinally as Torah observant Messianic believers. In verse 1, Paul is making reference to the Torah observant crowd referring to them as “those who’s faith is weak.” He doesn’t mean this in a derogatory manner, as the context of Romans 14 will clearly show, but in the sense that their understanding of the new covenant freedoms in how and when to worship was weak, leading them to sincerely believe the Sabbath/Holy Day, unclean dietary laws of the Old Covenant Torah law were still in full effect, instead of now being voluntary. Even the Headquarters church in Jerusalem had come to a proper understanding of this freedom, but still observed the Sabbath/Holy Day/dietary laws of the Torah out of strong cultural custom, which they were free to do. Most Messianic congregations up until 300AD throughout Asia Minor voluntarily kept same observances, as do ones today. But in Rome, the Messianic believers were Torah observant, meaning, they believed the Old Covenant Torah law was still in full force, including Holy Days, dietary laws, and ceremonial laws like circumcision. That is why Paul referred to them as those who’s faith was weak. It wasn’t a derogatory slam in any sense. For what does verse 1 say? “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” Verse 2 goes on to put this into context, showing Paul was talking about Torah observant Messianic Jewish believers verses Gentile believers. Verse 2, “One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” Now this isn’t to say there was a huge vegetarian population in Rome, as some Sabbatarian denomination thinks. Most Roman food had a lot of unclean meat mixed into it. Take sausage for example. Pork was a main staple, and the Roman meat stores didn’t make dietary allowances for Jews, but catered to the major population, which was Gentile and pork loving. So this is definitely talking about Gentile verse Torah observant Messianic Jewish believer. Paul goes on to demand of the Gentile believer sensitivity toward the Jewish believer, when in verse 3 he says, “The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.” This is a powerful statement at the end of this verse, “for God has accepted him.” In today’s way of looking at the Torah observant Messianic believer, or Sabbatarian, would be to call them legalists. Paul is saying that God has accepted both groups, the one’s who have a proper understanding of the new covenant, and those that don’t, those that we tend to call legalists. And if God has accepted them, that means he has bestowed his Holy Spirit on BOTH GROUPS OF BELIEVERS! Oooh, that’s gotta hurt, now doesn’t it. Some Christian groups sporting their major Christian magazines like to slam the Torah observant ones, even calling them cults or “Bad News Religions.” This is not in the interest of spiritual unity, a unity the apostle Paul was striving to maintain in this culturally and religiously diverse congregation. What would the apostle Paul have to say to some of you? I wonder. This website is all about spiritual unity, so I’m not going to cut anyone any slack on this one. This is serious. Jesus gave us a job to do, to evangelize the world and spiritually nourish the precious ones who respond favorably to the gospel message. Spiritual bickering and name-calling between various denominations and Christian religious groups goes against the very Commission Jesus gave us to perform until he returns. There are false groups out there that disguise themselves as Christian. Satan has set these groups up, and the very people who are in them are deceived themselves into believing they’re Christian. But you want to know something? They do sow the true gospel of Christ at times, right out of the Bible. And God’s Word is so powerful (as Ray Comfort humorously points out), that this gospel seed does germinate and draw some very real believers to Jesus, right within these false groups. So as Jesus pointed out, the wheat is growing amongst the tares in situations like this. He will separate them in the end (and if you read on you will see just exactly how that will be done). But to throw condemnation or try to uproot the tares, may only cause the good to be destroyed. So, apologist, tread very carefully in what you do and say. Paul goes on to say in verse 4, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” The other person’s servant is a direct reference to someone who is serving the Lord from another group, which in the case of this letter, would be one or the other group being addressed in this letter. In today’s context, it would be all the denominations that are really of Jesus, along with all believers in whatever group they reside in, who may have been called from gospel seed scattered even by an unbeliever.
At the time this was written by Paul, Messianic and Gentile congregations were all over the Roman Mediterranean world. Paul as he went on his evangelistic tours would go to synagogues first and preach the gospel. Out of the synagogues many converts were either Jewish or what the Jews termed “God fearers”. A “God-fearer” was a Gentile who had come to believe in the one true God of the Bible (which back then was the Torah and prophets through Malachi), as opposed to believing in the pantheon of pagan gods. So the apostle Paul found a very apt and willing audience amongst the God-fearers along with a decent percentage of the Jewish members of a lot of these synagogues. A comparative overlay of identical maps of the entire Mediterranean Roman empire, one showing early Christian church congregational centers, and the other Jewish synagogue and population centers in Oskar Skarsaune’s In the Shadow of the Temple, shows that God called a lot of attendees from the Jewish synagogues around the Roman empire. This would indicate that a lot of them were Messianic. But then in 325 AD church historians all know what happened. Edicts from Constantine basically made Messianic Jewish Christianity illegal in the Roman empire, that simple. Not nice, definitely against the spirit of what Paul was preaching here in Romans 14, but it happened. Now we see that a huge restoration of the Jewish branch of the Christian Church is taking place, and has been for about 40 years now, as of 2010. In just the US, you can see this is true just by logging onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/messianicmovement/twobranches.htm . Let the facts speak for themselves. Some of those congregations are Torah observant, and many if not most are not. Paul is telling us how we should be treating all of them, and that would include what we say when no one else is listening. It would include what we think. You harbor anti-Semitic feelings? Better get rid of them, now.
Need some re-enforcement to what I’m saying, especially that Paul is talking about Gentile verses Torah observant Messianic Jewish believer? Verses 5-13, “One man considers one day more sacred than another [this would be the Torah observant Jewish person who observes the Sabbath, and now would include that same group, along with all Sabbatarian Christian denominations]; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:
“’As surely as I live’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God’” [Isaiah 45:23]
So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. THEREFORE LET US STOP PASSING JUDGMENT ON ONE ANOTHER. INSTEAD MAKE UP YOUR MIND NOT TO PUT A STUMBLING BLOCK OR OBSTICLE IN YOUR BROTHER’S WAY.” [emphasis mine, and I’m sure Paul would concur.] There are some denominations, some with their publications, that like to take pot shots at Sabbatarian or Torah observant believers in Yeshua. Pot is illegal. Don’t do it. Paul wanted above all else, unity in the body of Christ, a body that did have doctrinal differences, even back then. But he wanted unity that transcended doctrinal differences, a unity of the Spirit, Agape love that is shared in all believers by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each believer. Back a few chapters Paul defined what really made a believer, in Romans 8:9-11, 16. “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you…The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Paul’s criteria for who is a believer is whether or not that person has the Holy Spirit indwelling them. That’s it, period. Not whether they adhere or not to some doctrinal set of beliefs set up by some human arbiters who may or may not understand the Bible better than most of us. If God has bestowed his Holy Spirit inside a person, then by a direct act of God, that person is a believer, a Christian, a Messianic believer in Yeshua haMeshiach, whatever, whether they believe you have to observe the Sabbath and Holy Days and dietary laws of the Torah, or whether you have the freedom not to, Paul is saying, that person by fiat of God is a believer, a Christian, and you’d better shut up and not criticize. He also said we all have our appointment before God’s judgment seat, and will have to give an account for what we did or didn’t say in regards to this passage as well as the whole Word of God and how we applied it. I know for a fact that Satan has done all in his power to squash the Messianic believers, both in the past, and now he’s doing all in his power to keep the Gentile and Jewish believers in Jesus apart, disunited in spirit, bickering and backbiting amongst each other. There’s a huge spiritual gap, a no-man’s land between Jewish and Gentile believers, and it has been my personal experience, as well as Coach Bill McCartney’s, as well as anyone else working for unity between Jewish and Gentile believers, that this no-man’s land between the two major groups is full of Satanic minefields, with spiritual mortar rounds coming in all the time, along with machinegun fire raking over the spiritual landscape between the two major branches of the body of Messiah. Prejudices abound between each group. Each group, each denomination that is alive and Holy Spirit filled, whether Torah observant Sabbatarian, Messianic Jewish, non-Torah observant Messianic, Nazarene, Methodist, Baptist, are all part of Jesus Christ’s evangelistic army commissioned to bring the gospel to the world, each as the Lord inspires that group. And different groups may be inspired to bring the gospel in a slightly different way, some with a straight gospel of Christ message, while others with a prophetic warning attached to the same message. It is the Lord who inspires and commands the leaders of each group. But he has not commanded the leaders or members of one Christian group to bad-mouth any of the other groups. So says Paul, who was directly taught by Jesus for 3.5 years in Arabia, as well as constantly inspiring him through the Holy Spirit. So lets see how much more Paul has to say on this subject.
Verses 13-21, “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean [this is a huge law and principle of Christian conscience, which Paul will yet address at the end of the chapter]. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.” Yes, Jesus died for the Torah observant group too, whether Messianic Jewish or Sabbatarian Christian, the one’s some of you like to call legalists. And if Jesus died for them too, it would indicate that he’s also bestowed his Holy Spirit on and within them as well. Hmmm. “Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking [or a lack thereof], but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” Some teach the Bible says you can’t drink alcohol. If that’s what you sincerely believe, better not touch the stuff. Other groups believe you can drink alcohol in extreme moderation [which careful study of the Word seems to indicate]. If you’re one of that crowd, it’s OK for you to consume alcohol in extreme moderation—but don’t criticize the other group for not drinking. And the other group, don’t criticize those that do believe moderate drinking of alcohol is OK. Do you see how Paul is being inspired to explain the finer points of the law of Christ, it’s spiritual legislation that protects the individual Christian conscience. It allows for denominations that differ in the secondary doctrines of the Bible, as long as we’re all in agreement on the gospel of salvation. And even there, there is some difference of belief over Holy Day/Sabbath observance, which one group labels works of the law, while the other one looks at it as the obedience to Christ that Jesus himself commanded in Matthew 5:17-19. Paul, and God through Paul, is commanding respect of individual Christian conscience to believe either way in this area, and in many of the secondary doctrines. And he’s saying each group has the Holy Spirit indwelling. Now back to Romans 14:13-21, picking up in verse 19, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.” I failed to mention, but one major new and very Holy Spirit filled denomination [they hate being called a denomination] started out ministering to drug addicts and alcoholics, many of them the hippies of the late 1960s. So they do not believe in consuming alcohol, and anyone seeking to serve in the ministry in any way must agree not to consume alcohol. I do believe they are aware the Scripture does not forbid consumption in extreme moderation. But their ministry is a healing ministry, where many enter to be healed of addictions and hurts of all kinds, and so consumption of alcohol by members would definitely cause other members who are recovering from drugs or alcoholism to stumble, so their denominational teaching against alcohol consumption is definitely within the spirit of what Paul is talking about here, and a proper application of Romans 14, verse 19. The denomination I am talking about is the Calvary Chapels under Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, California.
Now for one of the most profound statements Paul ever made about the Christian conscience. It is why he commands us to respect the belief systems, doctrinal belief structures of other denominations. People make up denominations, and people of like beliefs usually flock together. It’s just not comfortable to attend a church where you doctrinally disagree on their major beliefs or points of doctrinal interpretation. Romans 14:22-23, “So whatever you believe about these things”—and Paul is addressing people who have differing beliefs who happen to attend the same congregation, which was making for big trouble. This was the early Christian church, in the 60s AD, and it hadn’t had time to separate out into denominations of differing secondary belief structures.—“keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” Are you beginning to see how important the Christian conscience is? You who understand the new covenant, and talk a Sabbatarian into breaking the Sabbath, against his better judgment--you are causing him or her to sin! That’s according to Paul, not me. Cause a person to drink alcohol that has been taught it’s sin, it is sin for him. Understand, the Jews who were a part of the Roman congregation, many of them had come back to Rome from that first Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11). They were Jews who lived in Rome, but lived according to the Torah and had been brought up that way, attending the local synagogue in Rome. So when they accepted Yeshua as their Messiah after witnessing the coming of the Holy Spirit and hearing Peter’s first sermon, they went back to Rome as new believers. At that time there was no such thing or distinction between being a Torah observant Messianic believer, or non-Torah observant believer. These Jews grew up under teaching and obedience to the Torah. That would include the strict keeping of the Sabbath and Holy Days (read Leviticus 23), as well as the dietary laws (Leviticus 11). Those animals listed as unclean where not just considered as ceremonially unclean, but also as unhealthy to eat by the Jews. They figured God created them, so he knew what was good for you and what wasn’t, and he spelled it out in his law. So their beliefs were pretty strong. Paul is saying, “that’s OK to believe that way.” But to offend a believers Christian conscience, or influence a believer to do something he believes the Bible condemns, is causing that person to sin. Romans 14 is a major lesson in Christian sensitivity and respect for the beliefs of others within the body of Christ. And it is written in the direct context of the two major branches of the Christian church, Messianic Jewish and Gentile. Maybe some of you Gentile believers need to learn about your Jewish brothers in Messiah. Log onto the Messianic section of this site at http://www.unityinchrist.com/messianicmovement/twobranches.htm. There are about five or six articles in that section that will help familiarize you with your new Messianic believer brothers and sisters in Yeshua. If you are a church denomination that has been slamming Sabbatarians, calling them legalists, or in any way putting them down, stop it right now, or you will bring judgment down upon yourselves and your denomination. Paul said as much. The observations and conclusions that follow have been arrived at after having spent 25 years in a Torah observant Sabbatarian Christian church, and then 2.5 years in a non-Torah observant Messianic Jewish congregation, along with having friendship ties with a Torah observant Messianic congregation in Oregon. So I feel pretty confident in what I am about to reveal. By all appearances the Sabbatarian Churches of God that we find in the United States appear to be remnants of the early Torah observant Messianic Jewish Christians of Asia Minor and Rome of the first three centuries A.D. We mustn’t be throwing stones at these groups, but instead we must come to understand the long harrowing journey they made from Asia Minor, Europe, England to the United States--a journey filled with persecution, martyrdom and death as the price-tag for holding onto beliefs that are now going through a major revival amongst the Messianic Jewish branch of the body of Christ. Be sure to look up and read that link titled “revivals.htm” to gain a fuller picture of what I am talking about. This astounding realization of just who these Sabbatarians are and where they came from didn’t fully dawn on me until I spent two and a half years in a Messianic Jewish congregation. Gentile Christian denominations have been slamming these Sabbatarian groups that originally were fully Jewish and yet fully Christian, a group driven underground by the edicts of Constantine, and harrowed and killed off in droves during the Inquisitions. Be sure to read about their history, especially during the Waldensian era. God is now reviving the Jewish branch of the body of Christ by a massive calling of Jews by the direct placing of his Holy Spirit within them. God is showing what’s important here through his Holy Spirit. We ought not to be throwing stones at a work being done through the Holy Spirit--or at the remnants of what was done through the Holy Spirit that have survived from the first three centuries A.D. It just isn’t Kosher. There are most definitely strong doctrinal/ideological similarities between these two groups, and most especially in Holy Day/Sabbath observances, almost identical understandings of Holy Day shadows (prophetic/historic), just to name one major area. For further historic proof of this ancient link, check out and read the Sabbatarian histories at http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/revivals.htm . (An example of an active thread of these Sabbatarian Churches of God can be viewed at http://www.ucg.org . This group is so similar to a Torah observant Messianic Jewish congregation in doctrinal practices and beliefs [not Jewish customs] that it’s uncanny.) We all have been given assignments in the overall job of the 1st Commission Jesus gave us. We must all stick to our part of what he’s given us to do, and never mind critiquing the other guy or his denomination and how they’re doing what they’ve been given to do. If Jesus wants them to change something, or understand something new, he will inspire them and teach them. These sermon transcripts are meant to nourish believers from all the Christian denominations, but are never intended to convince a believer to go against his or her Christian conscience. And if material on this site inspires you to do that, stop reading this site, that simple. When Peter was showing respect of persons, snubbing the Gentiles in front of the Jewish believers, Paul condemned him openly. The spirit of Paul’s correction is in this chapter.
A serious word about unity in the body of Christ: The body of Christ, from just after apostolic times until now, has been and is composed of many differing denominational units, most or all having differing secondary doctrinal understandings of the Word of God. The body of Christ will achieve total unity of belief and organization at the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ. But just prior to that I foresee a form of unity which the Lord will bring us into by a method I would call “being drop-forged in the fires of persecution.” Jesus in Matthew 13:24-30, said “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. ‘The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” In verses 37-41 Jesus explains that “the one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age [i.e. just before the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ], and the harvesters are the angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age…” Notice the weeds are separated out first and burned--when?--at the time of harvest, at the end of the age. And then the wheat is left, and gathered into the barn. The wheat is all that’s left after the weeds are burned off. This follows the identical scenario given by Jesus in Matthew 24:9-13. In those set of verses Jesus explains that a persecution takes place, right within the same time-period as when the gospel of the kingdom goes to the entire world, verse 14. Jesus even explains what happens during this fiery persecution. Lets read it. “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. [note: true Christians never remain in a state of being offended, or hating one another. These are people who are in amongst the Christian believers, yet not believers themselves, not really.] And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:9-13). Verse 14, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” What end? The end of this evil age by the beginning of WWIII, which leads to the 2nd coming (read verses 15-31). So, fiery persecution almost simultaneous to the gospel going to the entire world. Then in verses 15-20, Jesus instructs his believers to flee when they see the abomination that makes desolate in the Holy Place in Jerusalem. We have to assume that Jesus will reveal to where we are to flee as well as what in the world many believers would be doing in Jerusalem leading up to this time. Perhaps believers will have fled the nations where we normally live and have gathered in Jerusalem. Or maybe we’ve been “Raptured” to Jerusalem. Scripture doesn’t tell us. But you can see the time-order of events directly follows that of the parable of the wheat and tares. This method of fire and pounding will burn off all the chaff--those within the body of Christ that are not really Christians--but leaving intact anyone in whom the Holy Spirit indwells. These remaining believers in Jesus, Yeshua, will never be separated from the body of Christ. Why? Romans 8:35-39, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The history of the Separatists in England and then in New England is a perfect example of this principle of burning off the tares, and gathering the wheat. They were told to “conform” to the sinning “established and recognized” church of the land (the Church of England), or else, as king James 1 threatened, “they would be hounded and driven from the land…or worse.” The fires of persecution drove away any in whom God’s Spirit didn’t reside and simultaneously forged those that remained into a group of staunch, spiritually battle-hardened believers. God then used this group of believers to lay a spiritual foundation on the North American continent. Ever since then units of the body of Christ have used this foundation as a launching pad to spread the gospel of salvation to the entire world. When will the fires of persecution within our fattened, overly wealthy western nations start? In some cases they’ve already been ignited. Passage of hate-crime laws in many western nations are starting to make the unhindered preaching of the Word of God a hate-crime. As time progresses, the faint-hearted in the body of Christ--i.e. those without the Holy Spirit--will be driven away, out of the body of Christ. Each denominational unit within the body of Christ will shrink in the number of members it has, but the remaining number of members will be strong in the Lord, becoming forged and refined by the same fires that burned off the “chaff”. Will the different denominational units drop their denominational-organizational barriers and become one? That depends solely upon the Lord. In many cases, smaller congregations and denominational units may find it necessary to join together with others in order to survive. This all depends on how far the Lord wishes to go before he takes the church to protect it, either by a rapture as some teach, or to a place of safety as others teach. And which one of those two scenarios proves to be true will only become clear when the Lord performs it, regardless of what we believe. We, as the body of Christ, have been given a certain amount of time to perform the 1st commission. He prophecied that when we got the gospel preached to the whole world, then the end would come. It seems that Matthew 24 indicates that the final process of getting that gospel to the entire world will be done whilst the church is being persecuted. Maybe that's due to the fact that we’ve really started to get that gospel to the entire world. This isn’t a pleasant message, but it must be spoken nonetheless. The sooner we get busy supporting the preaching and disseminating the gospel worldwide, the sooner we’ll all be brought to our “Mayflower” and transported to a new world wherein much righteousness will dwell. One thing is for sure, if and when we’re all drop-forged into one group of believers, we’ll all have to apply the message of Romans 14 far more thoroughly than we do presently.
The Lord has the last word: Now to wrap this up. Remember in verse 1 Paul referred to the Torah observant [you can lump Torah observant in with Sabbatarian groups here] Jewish believers as “those weak in the faith”? (i.e. weak in their understanding of the freedoms in the new covenant) Well, don’t get too upidy or all high on your horse and think of yourself as being “strong” in the faith. Here’s some interesting news about the future during the millennial kingdom of God, about the future church in the millennium and the “day’s of worship” believers will be observing, spoken by the Lord through two of his holy prophets. Zechariah 14:16-19, “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have not rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.” Zechariah 14, if you read it, is the chapter that vividly describes the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ. Next Isaiah 66:22-23 (Isaiah 66 is describing the 2nd coming as well), “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.” And in these two separate prophecies, both written about the time-frame when the Lord returns to rule earth, starting the millennial kingdom of God, he has just given the beginning and end of what is commanded in Leviticus 23, where in Leviticus 23:1-3 the observance of the Sabbath is commanded and in Leviticus 23:34-44 the observance of the feast of tabernacles is commanded. This is the Lord’s way of saying through his prophets that the whole of Leviticus 23 will be observed as God’s “days of worship” in the millennial kingdom of God. For 1700 years Gentile believers--in faith--weren’t required to observe these days (neither were the Messianic Jewish believers “required” to keep these days, but could do so out of custom). Only a tiny beat up group of Sabbatarian believers observed them during that entire time-span (see link below). Ask yourself this: ‘Why in the world has God the Father chosen at this late date to call and draw to Jesus nearly half a million “Jewish” people to believe in Jesus, Yeshua, as their Savior and Messiah just before he returns?’ The Lord calls by placing his Holy Spirit in people. Is the Lord saying something to the body of Christ through the calling actions of his Holy Spirit?
Dichotomy: “…two distinct groups, parts or classifications that are contradictory to each other.”
Verses 22-23, “Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.” In verses 22-23 of Romans 14 the apostle Paul has stated the paramount law of Christian conscience where the whole subject of sin verses obedience to God’s Law is tied to an individual Christian’s conscience about how a Scripture is to be interpreted. With some Scriptures, the interpretation is dead-on, and not open to much leeway in interpretation, but with others, there are differences of interpretation that do arise. Romans 14 is one of those critical areas where differences in interpretation have arisen. As a matter if fact, a strong dichotomy exists between Sabbatarians and Sunday observers on how Romans 14 and Acts 15 should be interpreted. Now we know the Sabbatarian Church of God Christians do not interpret Romans 14:5-6 as applying to freedom of choice in “days of worship,” and they sincerely believe those verses and the whole of Romans 14 is talking about “food sacrificed to idols”, which Jewish-Christians were loathe to eat. Sabbath/Holy Day observance as a part of God’s commanded Law is a Black & White issue for them---and because this is so, Romans 14:22-23 strongly commands them to stick to their beliefs and Sabbath/Holy Day observance. But for the Sunday-observer, according to his or her Christian conscience, they believe Romans 14:5-6 is talking about the making of “days of worship” and eating or not eating of Biblically proclaimed “unclean food” a voluntary choice. Now a touchy question comes up for the Sabbatarian Church of God believer. Many if not most of them have been taught by their spiritual leaders that because Sunday-observing Christians are breaking God’s Sabbath, they are breaking God’s entire Law---and thus they’re not true Christians (so goes the argument)---James 2:10, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” But Romans 8 essentially defines a Christian as a person in whom God has placed his Holy Spirit. The touchy question arises because some if not a lot of the Sabbatarian Church of God believers can see the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22-23) being actively displayed in some of the more Biblical and on-fire Sunday-keepers. Even historically, whole denominations when they started out, like John Wesley’s Methodists, exhibited the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit (before the denomination spiritually died out, not physically, but spiritually.) George Mueller was another individual who exhibited the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit, as plainly recorded in history. One leader of a Sabbatarian Church of God has gone so far as to state quite plainly that the great Bible translator, William Tyndale, most definitely had the Holy Spirit within him and that he was being actively led by the Holy Spirit. And yet, search as hard as you like, you will never, ever find a historical record of William Tyndale ever observing any other days of worship other than his chosen days of worship, which were Sunday, Christmas and Easter. This same Sabbatarian Church of God leader has gone on to say when asked, ‘Well, what about other Sunday-observing Christians? We see the Holy Spirit active in them as well.’ He then states, ‘Well, the Holy Spirit is around them, working with them, but not directly indwelling them.’ That, folks, doesn’t cut it. That is a cop-out statement of mammoth proportions. To me, it all goes back to the importance of Christian conscience brought out by the apostle Paul in Romans 14:22-23, which God is judging believers by. God is holding Christians to the very standard of what they believe to be right. For example, should any one of those Sunday-observing Christians start to believe that the Sabbath is commanded for Christians, he’d better start observing the Sabbath, or else he is now breaking God’s Law (cf. James 2:10). It’s that simple. The most important verses in Romans 14 are not verses 5-6 which Sabbath and Sunday observing Christians have been haggling over for 1700 years, but the most important verses are verses 22-23. Also, we know the Sabbath was given to the ancient Israelites as a sign that they were God’s people, and that a lot of Sabbatarian Church of God believers still believe the Sabbath is the sign that they are God’s people. But the sign that a new covenant believer in Jesus Christ belongs to God, by God’s very own words, is that the Holy Spirit will dwell within that person, writing God’s laws in his or her heart and mind (see and read Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:6-13; Hebrews 10:16, Acts 2:1-43 and Romans 8:1-16). I know I have not helped solve this dichotomy in belief between Sabbath-keeping and Sunday-keeping Christians. But hopefully I have made it more distinct so that those on both sides of the issue can better understand those on the other side, hopefully without judging each other too harshly. At best, those on either side must lovingly agree to disagree on interpretation of Romans 14 and Acts 15 until after the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ.
Also, with the Sunday-observers who think that the early Church went right over to Sunday observance, they are in very serious need to check out the actual early history of the Church covering the first 300 years. It was Sabbath/Holy Day observing the most part, except for the developing proto-Catholic Church (see and read through http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm for a good study on that history).”
To see why the Sabbath-observers believe the Sabbath command has not been abrogated, see:
Was the Sabbath Abrogated?