ROMANS CHAPTER FOURTEEN
NOT A "CATCHALL"
TO JUSTIFY DEVIATE INNOVATIONS
PERHAPS a closer look at the
14th chapter of Romans is in order. We need to get hold of this Scripture.
It seems that some would carelessly try to use this as a "catchall" beyond
what the apostle Paul had in mind or was dealing with. Perhaps this Scripture
is not as inclusive as some people would like to think. Let us take a look
at this in the context of all of the New Testament.
The early days of the church saw Christians in transition from the
Mosaic system to Christianity. Yes, the New Testament came into force with
the death of Christ upon the cross (Hebrews 9:16,17). But Jesus had promised
that when the Holy Spirit came he would "guide" the apostles into all truth
(John 16:13; 14:26). Although the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost,
this didnít happen all at once. Even the apostle Paul stated, "For we know
in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect [complete]
is come, then that which is in part shall be done away" (I Corinthians
13:9,10). A person only has to read the book of Acts to see how true this
statement was. For a while, they continued to worship in the temple. They
observed Jewish customs and days. It took them several years, with the
prodding of God, to get around to preaching the gospel to the Gentiles.
Then with Gentiles coming into the church, a wider view was thrust upon
them. And with Gentile and Jewish Christians having different backgrounds
and hang-ups, problems surfaced and had to be dealt with. But to the outsider,
it would appear that Christianity was just a sect of the Jewish religion.
Romans 14:1 through 15:7 is to be understood with all of this in
mind. Introducing us to the trend of the thought here, Romans 14:1-6 reads,
Here we see the situation involved eating: (1) Some believed
that a Christian could eat "all things," including meat; (2) Others, evidently
Jewish Christians, believed in being strictly vegetarians. It involved
observing days religiously: (1) Some observed one day "above another";
(2) Others did not observe these days. Evidently there is a Jewish backdrop
to all of this. They were instructed to exercise tolerance, longsuffering
and patience in dealing with one another.
But were these matters a matter of opinion? Could either of these
positions involving eating and days be nailed down as the Christian position?
If this can be ascertained, why were these directives given here with teachings
elsewhere that seem to be otherwise? Or, are they otherwise?
For example, in reference to eating, consider the following
in I Timothy 4:1-5. Paul foretells of what would be taught by those who
departed from the faith and along beside it he tells what the right teaching
"Him that is weak [not strong]
in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth
that he may eat all things: another, who is weak [not strong], eateth herbs
[vegetables]. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and
let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received
him. Who art thou that judgest another manís servant? To his own master
he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to
make him stand. 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. 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."
reference to special days, consider Galatians 4:10 and 11. This
is very interesting since it is generally thought that the book of Romans
and Galatians were written about the same time.
"Forbidding to marry, and commanding
to abstain from meats, which God hat created to be received with thanksgiving
of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is
good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For
it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer."
And in connection
with eating and days, Colossians 2:16 deals
"Ye observe days, and months,
and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you
labour in vain."
we to understand this? The distinctive Christian view seems to be that
we are free to eat any kind of food, including meats, and that we do not
observe special days. The answer seems to lie in that Paul addresses his
words in Romans 14 to the individual, "one believeth," "one
esteemeth." These beliefs and hang-ups were not being imposed on the church
as such. Jew and Gentile with their varied backgrounds were to patiently
deal with one another as they came unto the larger view of things. But
Paul does not seem to have this tolerance and patience in the book of Galatians.
What is the difference? In the book of Galatians, and in Galatia, whole
churches were going back under the Law of Moses and, no doubt, publicly
embracing the Jewish distinctions about foods and the observance of days
as the express doctrine of the church. It was not a matter of individual
Christians holding views and hang-ups that they were growing out of, but
a matter of them imposing them upon the whole church. This could not be
allowed. Read the book of Galatians. Paul had said to the Romans, "Let
every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification" (Romans
15:2). To confirm someone in error is not "for his good to edification."
But to be patient with him on an individual basis as he grows in the grace
and knowledge of the Lord is decidedly another thing.
What are we to learn from all of this? (1) Let us not try to use
Romans chapter 14 as a catchall to excuse, justify, or introduce unscriptural
innovations, practices and false teachings into the church. (2) Let us
exercise longsuffering and patience with one another on an individual basis
as we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and especially with new
converts as they grow in understanding.
(Vol. 38, No. 4, 2000)
"Let no man therefore judge
you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holyday, or of the new moon,
or of the sabbath days."