Many people today believe that Paul thinks of those who keep Sabbath and refuse to eat pork as weaker brothers and that todays Christians who have been set free from that should just accept them as weaker and not make waves. Is that what Romans 14 is talking about?
If you read it with a 21st century mindset and don’t go back into the original Greek, then it sure looks like it, but here are some problems with that interpretation.
1. Over and over throughout Scripture Paul speaks boldly about his adherance to the law, every aspect of it, by the very strictest standards. In Acts 17ff, he even goes out of his way to prove to James that he is NOT teaching against the law. So if those who keep Sabbath and refuse to eat abominable foods are weaker, than Paul would have to be including himself here as a weaker brother.
2. Sabbath has never been a negotiable day where it’s ok if one person keeps it and another person doesn’t. That doesn’t match with the character of the One that initiated Sabbath and who set it by example. It also isn’t in keeping with the rest of the practice of Yeshua and his disciples, whose example we are to follow.
3. If we look at verse 14, we find the word unclean and most interpret this to mean pork and shellfish, which are created unclean. Upon closer inspection, however, this word is a different kind of unclean, the same one used in Mark 7. The word is KOINOS and it has to do with ceremonial uncleanness and not with animals that were created unclean and never intended to be food. All food is ceremonially clean. Not all animals are food. Not all animals are created clean. This word unclean was not fully translated and is creating a lot of misunderstanding as a result. This is KEY to properly understanding many of the passages used today to excuse us from obeying the commandments of our Creator.
Although we don’t know for sure what Paul IS talking about here, we do know what he is NOT talking about. He is NOT saying it is ok to eat pork or shellfish or anything else on YHVHs list of unclean animals that are not food and not to be eaten.
It is very possible that Paul was referring again to the meats sold in the marketplace. This subject is brought up more than once by Paul in his writings (See 1 Cor 8 and 10) and is a very important one among the new Gentile converts. Should they purchase meat from their pagan marketplace? They don’t know if it has been sacrificed to idols and/or ceremonially unclean. Even lamb and goat would be “unclean” in this case because it may not have been slaughtered properly or it may have touched pig, or maybe it was sacrificed to an idol. Some new gentile believers had found the freedom to eat it without asking, others had a conscience that was more sensitive and maybe it hit too close to home and they couldn’t eat any meat that had come from the marketplace, so they ate only vegetables. Paul is saying that both methods are ok and not to make it a matter of judging each other and causing unnecessary strife.
The days referred to in verse 5 would be a similar situation. According to Didache and others, it was a practice among the early followers of the Messiah to have certain days of fasting and it could have easily been a matter of contention. Paul could be saying that having days of fasting is ok, but not if you judge others based on their choice regarding days of fasting. There is no way it could be talking about choosing to obey Sabbath or not. That is one of YHVHs commandments. It would not be a “you’re ok, I’m ok” situation.
I was just reading at one website that it’s ok to eat anything today, based on these two passages being incorrectly interpreted. There was no place to make a comment, but I have great concern for all of these teachers who are giving permission to disobey the commandments of YHVH. They will be held accountable. It is SO important that you study the Word, rightly dividing it, so that you are not ashamed. Please don’t go by what ANYONE else says. Not your pastor, not your parents, not your friends, not me… NO ONE!!! Study Scripture for yourself. Dig deep. Find the TRUTH.