By Chris Barr
Rav Shaul (Apostle Paul) was a MASTER of Torah. He often quotes or alludes to Old Testament Scriptures without ever mentioning the Scripture that he is quoting or to which he is alluding.
Romans 14 is one of those very common instances. Yes, it is about "personal convictions" and "personal scruples" but it is in the context of Old Testament Scripture. It is more specifically about "traditions of men" that as The Saviour noted "Makes The Word of none effect". Oh, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with vegetarianism.
What then was Paul talking about? He was talking about fast days. The whole 14th chapter of Romans is about food and how people's beliefs about fasting should not be interfered with. The fast days could be observed according to each believer's conscience. A man could eat or not eat, keep the day or not keep it. Each man could observe FAST DAYS, or not observe them, according to his own convictions.
He that does not eat, regards the day.
He that eats, does not regard the day.
The "days" that Paul was referring to were the traditional fast days mentioned in Zechariah 7:5-6.
These were anniversary fasts that were observed during the Jews' captivity in Babylon.
These are the four traditional fasts mentioned in Zechariah:
1. The fast of the 4th month, in remembrance of the breaking of the wall of Jerusalem.
2. The fast of the 5th month, in remembrance of the burning of the Temple.
3. The fast of the 7th month, in remembrance of the killing of Gedaliah, which completed the Dispersion.
4. The fast of the 10th month, in remembrance of the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem.
(see Jeremiah 52:6, 12-13; 2Kings 1,3,8,25)
It is of interest to note that those dates commemorate the judgments of The Almighty upon a people who refused to keep the Sabbath Day holy. (See Jeremiah 17:19-27)
Even the Jews themselves had different convictions about the observance of those days--because those fast days were never commanded by The Almighty.
After the Captivity (when the Temple was being rebuilt) the men of Bethel also wondered if they should observe these fasts unto YHVH. For example, they asked Zechariah: "Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years?" (Zechariah 7:2-6)
When you read Zechariah's answer, notice the striking similarity of his words to those of Paul to the believers at Rome:
Compare Zechariah 7:5-6 :
"When ye FASTED and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast UNTO ME, even to Me (YHVH?
And when ye did EAT, and when ye did drink, did ye not EAT FOR YOURSELVES and drink for yourselves?"
With Romans 14:6,7 :
"He that regardeth the (fast) 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 The Almighty thanks; and he that EATETH NOT, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth The Almighty thanks. For none of us LIVETH TO HIMSELF, and no man dieth to himself."
Common churchmen use Romans 14:5-6 as proof that New Testament believers no longer have an obligation to keep the Sabbath day holy. Examine those two verses, just as a judge would consider evidence in his courtroom, and then decide whether or not they testify against Sabbath keeping.
"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 (observeth) 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 The Almighty thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth The Almighty thanks."
The judge would ask: "Where is the Sabbath mentioned in those verses?"
The Sabbath is not mentioned there, nor in the entire book of Romans! No court in the land would allow verses that do not mention the Sabbath to be used as evidence in an argument against the Sabbath-- so why should we?
You see, Paul could not have been talking about keeping the Sabbath day holy because obedience to Torah is not optional. It is ludicrous to suggest that any of the Ten Commandments can be disobeyed "unto the Lord"! Think of the absurdity of saying, "He that stealeth, to the Lord he stealeth; and he that stealeth not, to the Lord he stealeth not".
If you were the judge in the case of the Churchmen versus the Sabbath, would you be willing to say that Paul had canceled one of the commandments of God based on the evidence you find in the 14th chapter of Romans?
The evidence from Romans and Zechariah demands a verdict for Sabbath observance. The church must obey the Fourth Commandment, and that is the only decision that will uphold the Law of God.
As to the mention of "unclean" animals in Romans 14 ...
I know, and am persuaded in The Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean of itself: save that to him who accounteth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
Some cite this passage to note "that nothing is unclean of itself", and that something is only unclean if a person believes it to be so. Are individuals to ascertain for their own sake whether The Scriptures mean what they say for each one as each one sees fit? Is Paul here writing in essence "do as you please"? NO!
The word "unclean" in each instance of verse 14 is the Greek word "koinos". This Greek word means "ordinary" and is usually translated "common", or means something that has been made or designated unclean that is not in and of itself normally unclean. This word is found in 10 other verses but ONLY in Romans 14:14 is it translated "unclean".
Another related Greek word is "koinoo" that has a similar meaning of something that has been made or designated unclean that is not in and of itself normally unclean. In 11 other verses this word is NOT translated "unclean".
The word "unclean" occurs in 28 other places from the Greek word "akathartos". This Greek word means something that is in and of itself unclean or profane. It is used to refer to demons and animals that The Lord has identified as "unclean". This is NOT the word Paul used in Romans 14:14!
The Jews had added a designation to the clean food laws of Scripture that was NOT in Scripture. That designation was "common" animals. These are animals that are clean animals that Judaism labeled unfit because they came from a Gentile source, or did not meet a standard established by men of Judaism. That is why Peter in the vision of Acts 10 told The Almighty, "I have never eaten anything that is common OR unclean".
There is no Scriptural prohibition against that which is "common". That is what Paul was addressing in Romans 14:14, "nothing is common of itself" for that is an added designation by man—it is not of The Almighty! That is why Paul followed this writing with, "to him who accounteth anything to be common,"—to whom?—"to HIM" the individual and not to The Almighty! It is the individual who designates something common and not The Almighty who does so! Paul then concludes, "to him it is common". Again, "to HIM" the individual who has so designated something common and not to The Almighty!
Romans, Chapter 14 has nothing whatever to do with the clean and unclean foods that The Almighty Himself has declared in His Word! Once again, this is dealing with the traditions of men -- as is the case of the entire chapter!