“I know — that is, I have been persuaded by the Lord Yeshua the Messiah — that nothing is unclean in itself. But if a person considers something unclean, then for him it is unclean.” -Romans 14:1-23
Before I finally move on to Leviticus Chapter 12, I just have to do one more Scripture teardown of another set of classic verses the church and Christians just looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooove to use to push their agenda that the Kosher food laws no longer apply in the New Testament age.
Of course, I’m talking about Romans 14:14 (copied above).
Let’s take a take a look at the phrase “nothing is unclean in itself”.
Putting aside the fact that I don’t think it’s a good idea to even begin reading such an advanced theological book as Romans minus a proper grounding in Torah fundamentals, let me just give it to you straight.
When Paul says “nothing is unclean of itself”, he is not saying that “nothing” is unclean.
And why do we know that?
Just let the wheels in your head spin a little bit.
Why do you think we can be so confident in knowing that Paul isn’t really saying there are no longer any distinctions between CLEAN and UNCLEAN?
The reason is because it would be contrary to Torah.
If Paul was really saying that CLEAN and UNCLEAN distinctions no longer exist, we could write him off as a false prophet because he would be contradicting Torah.
This is how your mind should be operating when you encounter a verse from Paul and Yeshua that seems contrary to what is written in Torah, instead of defaulting to the misguided church interpretation that the Law has been done away with.
When you encounter a verse that seems contrary to Torah, you’ve got to say to yourself “it can’t mean what I think it means because that would be against Torah, therefore it must mean something else”.
And indeed, it does mean something else.
The premise behind Paul’s statement is that a pig is not unclean “because it is a pig”.
Rather, a pig is unclean BECAUSE GOD HAS IN HIS SOVEREIGNTY DECLARED IT UNCLEAN.
Are you catching that distinction?
It is the Lord who separates, elects, and divides by divine decree what is allowed and not allowed.
Purity is NOT intrinsic, it is imputed.
Recall back in the Book of Genesis when God declared ALL His Creation to be TOV or good.
There was nothing in creation inherently clean or unclean in and of itself.
Things become CLEAN and UNCLEAN upon the Lord’s declaration.
Now let’s take a look at the second part of Romans 14:14: “if a person considers something unclean, then for him it is unclean”.
The issue Paul was addressing here was the Jewish custom of not sharing meat with gentiles.
In the Roman Jewish Synagogue community at the time, there was a specific HALAKHA (Oral Tradition) that stated that how Jews decided to “walk out their faith” was not only a “personal choice”, it was binding.
Paul even teaches this principle here in Romans Chapter 14.
“The one who eats anything must not look down on the one who abstains; and the abstainer must not pass judgment on the one who eats anything, because God has accepted him — who are you to pass judgment on someone else’s servant? It is before his own master that he will stand or fall; and the fact is that he will stand, because the Lord is able to make him stand.”-Romans 14:3-4
For example, according to the Torah, sheep are Kosher.
However, if the blood of the animal was not disposed of in a certain manner, then the cow was considered spiritually unclean, and to knowingly eat it would be sin.
As Jews had no way of knowing how gentiles dealt with the blood when slaughtering their animals, their HALAKHA (Oral Tradition) was to not eat meat prepared by gentiles, even if the particular meat dish being served by the gentile was “clean” according to Torah.
Thus, although the sheep is CLEAN according to Torah, to the one who made it UNCLEAN to himself as part of his walk with God, then it indeed becomes UNCLEAN to him.
Was that explanation too complicated?
Let’s take a modern example.
Among Messianic Jewish believers, there are those who believe they should apply the Oral Law in addition to Torah to their dietary habits, while there are others who don’t feel bound by Oral Law in terms of what they do or don’t eat.
So, for example, the believer who feels bound by Oral Law will NOT eat a cheeseburger because of the HALAKHIC prohibition against mixing meat with dairy.
So for that believer, “if he considers a cheeseburger unclean, then for him it is unclean”.
However, what Paul then goes on to say is that the believer who stays away from cheeseburgers because for him it is UNCLEAN should not look down on those who don’t have any problems eating cheeseburgers, because that person by eating a cheeseburger isn’t really breaking a Torah command.
And the person who decides to stay away from a cheeseburger isn’t really sinning either.
Are you beginning to understand the situation Paul was addressing here?
The issue here is not one of the “kosher laws”.
The context was the issue of the HALAKHA of synagogue Jews on certain issues.
There was never a question of whether or not a pig is kosher.
Because as I said earlier, those things are clearly spelled out in God’s Torah.
Paul did NOT teach against God’s Torah.
If he did, he was a false prophet, period.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
So the Torah is holy;
that is, the commandment is holy,
just and good.
Does it follow that we abolish Torah by this trusting?
On the contrary, we confirm Torah.
For it is not merely the hearers of Torah
whom God considers righteous;
rather, it is the doers of what Torah says
who will be made righteous in God’s sight.
For circumcision is indeed of value
if you do what Torah says.
But if you are a transgressor of Torah,
your circumcision has become uncircumcision!
Then what advantage has the Jew?
What is the value of being circumcised?
Much in every way!
In the first place,
the Jews were entrusted with the very words of God.
NEXT TIME WE BEGIN LEVITICUS CHAPTER 12