Rebuttal: Dangers of the Hebrew Roots Movement, Part 9

AiG: “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. (Romans 14:1–5)

Once again, it is difficult to be much clearer than what Paul wrote here. Believers should not pass judgment on each other over the foods they choose to eat. One person believes he can eat any type of food, but the one who is weak in faith believes he can only eat certain foods. Yet, even though Paul identifies this person as weak, he still urges one side not to pass judgment on the other side. The same is true when it comes to recognizing certain special days. One person highly esteems a given day while another esteems all days the same. Both positions are fine as long as each person is fully convinced in his own mind. These issues are matters of the conscience.”

Me: Paul was talking about food, which was the meaning of the word “meat” in 1611. All foods are okay to eat. However, some animals do not classify as “food,” such as pigs, birds of prey, and fish without scales (and for good reason – these animals are far more toxic than the ones we were given permission to eat). The problem that Paul was having with the Romans is that some of them were saying that you shouldn’t eat meat (“flesh”) at all, but only herbs. Please read the whole chapter, and please pay attention to the places where Paul uses the word “meat” as opposed to where he says “flesh.” This will greatly increase your understanding.

Also, when Paul mentions esteeming one day as “better” than another, he isn’t talking about which day God set apart as the holy sabbath. That was not in question, as no one was questioning God’s own Word. Paul wouldn’t have had the authority to change God’s Law, even if he had wanted to. (And Daniel 7:25 is not speaking of the apostle Paul.) Remember, the believers back in those days held the Law in such high regard that Paul had to keep reminding them in no uncertain terms that they were  not earning their salvation by keeping it. But He never told them not to keep it. He never said, abstain from righteousness. In fact, he said, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31). Remember that in Matthew 4:4, Jesus said we should live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God? Jesus’ words still stand, just as His Father’s do. This passage never mentions the sabbaths or feast days at all. Someone twisted this passage once upon a time, and the Christian world bought it and built their doctrine of lawlessness around it.

So as long as this verse was ever true: “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever” (Psalm 119:160), and this one: “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant” (Exodus 31:16), and the entire chapter of Isaiah 56, this passage is not about the sabbath.

But if Paul was not talking about the sabbath, then what was he talking about? Since this chapter is mainly about food, about eating and not eating, and since there was a great debate going on in the early church about which days were better to fast (most likely Pharisees vs. those who looked to God as their only authority), it makes more sense to interpret this passage as Paul’s answer to that debate. Rabbinical traditions called for specific fasting days in spite of the fact that our Father never designated any specific fasting days aside from Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Since believers are not subject to rabbinical teachings in the slightest, we are allowed to choose our own days on which to fast, and that’s the point Paul was trying to make. Here is an excerpt from the Jewish Virtual Library so you can see what I’m talking about:

“The laws of fasting detailed in talmudic literature and by halakhic authorities (Maim. Yad, Ta’aniyyot, 4; Tur and Sh. Ar., OḤ, 579) have basically not changed from the biblical period. Founded on very ancient popular and spontaneous customs, they were, in the main, like the reasons for fasting, not peculiar to the Jewish people, but current in the whole of the ancient Near East. The description of a public fast held by the Phoenicians of Carthage, at the end of the second century b.c.e. (Tertullian, De jejuniis 16), is almost identical to descriptions of fasts in the Bible, in Second Temple literature, and in rabbinic sources.

The fast was accompanied by prayer (during the First Temple period sacrifices were offered) and confession of sins (Judg. 20:26; I Sam. 7:6; Ezra 10:1). From the Second Temple period onward, the public fast was also accompanied by the reading of the Torah (Neh. 9:3). On solemn fasts (Ta’an. 4:1; Tosef. Ta’an. 4:1), four prayers – Shaḥarit, Ḥaẓot (“noon”), Minḥah, and Ne’ilat She’arim – were recited as well as Ma’ariv. TheAmidah of the fast day consisted of 24 benedictions – “the eighteen of every day, to which another six were added” (Ta’an. 2:2–4; ḤemdahGenuzah (1863), nos. 160–1; Tur, OḤ, 579) – and the liturgy was elaborated with special passages of supplication (Anenu – “Answer us!,” Ta’an. 14a), seliḥot, and prayers for mercy. The central part of the service was the sounding of the shofar (Joel 2:1) or the ḥaẓoẓerot (“trumpets”; I Macc. 3:54), trumpets (as main instruments) accompanied by horns (RH 3:4; Tosef. to RH 3:3). The blowing of shofarot and trumpets was performed in a different manner in the Temple and on the Temple Mount from the other localities (RH 27a; Ta’an. 16b); the exact procedure, however, is not known. (According to one opinion, there was no blowing outside the Temple area at all; see Ta’an. 2:4–5.) During the Middle Ages, in some Jewish communities, shofarot were sounded, in others, trumpets (see Beit Yosef to Tur, OḤ, 579).”

It is reasonable to believe that Romans 14 was a response to an age-old problem in the church: Spiritual leaders who were adding to and taking away from the commandments of the Father. Sound familiar? This is precisely what Jesus was always reprimanding the Pharisees for: for their direct violation of Deuteronomy 4:2: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” (Can I just say that this is what the HRM has against today’s Christian leaders?)

AiG: “How could Paul, a Jewish believer in the Messiah, tell people that they do not need to observe special days or dietary restrictions?”

Me: Again, keeping the Law never saved anyone, and Paul taught that clearly. However, in the Romans 14 passage, he wasn’t even talking about salvation by works – he was directly addressing man-made traditions (which flew in the face of the liberties afforded us by God’s perfect Torah). Men were trying to place extra restrictions on food and days, restrictions that God never placed. In doing so, they were placing their righteousness above God’s righteousness, and their own authority above His.

AiG: “Paul taught the same thing in 1 Corinthians 8. The person with a weak conscience is one who would not eat certain food, namely that which had been offered to idols. Others understood that the food itself was not defiled by an idol and that God is the Creator of all things, so they had no qualms about eating it. They recognized they were free to eat it because “food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do” (1 Corinthians 8:8).”

Me: Offering up a sacrifice to any god but the one true God is forbidden by Torah: Leviticus 17:8-9. Paul was not giving the believers at Corinth permission to break God’s Law concerning idol sacrifice. He was also not giving them permission to eat unclean animals, which is also forbidden by Torah. However, abstaining from legal foods that someone else had offered to an idol was an extra, man-made tradition, and believers were under no obligations to follow it, except when it would create a great offense to the Jewish believers (Acts 15:29), or when it would tempt a weaker brother to sin against what he believed God wanted: I Corinthians 9:8-13: “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. 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. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” Again, this is a case of Paul explaining to new believers that they had only one authority: God. As long as they were obeying His righteousness, His Torah, they didn’t need to concern themselves with any other regulations. And I’m not saying that if they chose to disobey God, they would become unsaved because we don’t earn our salvation in the first place. Jesus obeyed perfectly and earned our salvation. It’s finished. Our only part in that is faith in Him. What I am saying is that there are many out there who have a desire to please God to the fullest. To live as perfectly as possible according to His righteous standards, which are clearly defined in the Law. Again, we are not seeking to earn salvation or favor or anything else. It is a pure desire which drives us to live God’s way. It’s the same desire that keeps you from committing any sin that you choose not to commit.

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