The 12 Things the Old Testament Teaches Us about God’s Grace (Part 3/4)

IS THERE A CONNECTION BETWEEN GOD’S LAW AND GRACE?    In this last part of this series, we will examine what the Old Testament teaches us about the connection between grace and the law.  This is an extremely controversial point, since for centuries, Christianity has argued that Grace and Law were opposites, and that if someone tried to follow the Law, then they were attempting to earn their way to heaven, and the cross of Christ was no longer beneficial to them (Galatians 5:4).  But is this correct, or has the writings of Paul been taken out of context and misunderstood?  In this third part of this four-part series, we are going to look at this controversial topic.

CHESED [GRACE] IS CONNECTED TO OBSERVANCE TO THE LAW.

Interestingly, the first One to explicitly connect law and grace (Heb. chesed) together in the Bible is God Himself at Mt. Sinai as He is giving Israel the Ten Commandments.  So am I saying that God taught that we are justified by the keeping of the law?  Did He not know about the cross here?  I have heard many ministers make the claim that in the Old Testament, God taught a “legalistic approach” to Him, but as we will see, the Old Testament does NOT teach what they claim.  Those who think it teaches a “legalistic approach” do NOT really know the commandments, nor have they given them any real consideration beyond just a superficial reading of the text.

In the giving of the commandments, God first of all introduces Himself to the people of Israel:

I am the LORD [Heb. YHVH] your God, which have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  (Exodus 20:2)

I am the LORD.”  The word “LORD” here in all capitals is YHVH, the covenantal name of God, and when it was originally written, as all words in the ancient Paleo-Hebrew of the Old Testament, there were no vowels added to the words.  The vowels were added to the written text much later, and as a result, there’s been a lot of dispute as to how His name should be pronounced, which is why I just gave the consonants here.  But in this introduction, He not only tells them His name, which is what we do when we introduce ourselves to someone, but He reaffirms their relationship with Him by saying “your God.”

But not only does He introduce Himself to them and tell them that He is their “God,” but He also tells them that He is the one who had just redeemed them from slavery in Egypt; consequently, then, His relationship to them is based on the redemptive act that He had just done for them [i.e., His act of grace], “which have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”   And so even in the New Testament, our relationship with God is based on His grace, i.e., His redemptive act: Jesus’ death and resurrection for our sins.   So has God changed?  Absolutely NOT!  In fact, throughout the Scriptures, we find a consistent portrait of the behavior of God: He redeems us by an act of grace, His chesed, in order to establish His relationship with us.  This is true in the Exodus, it is true in the New Testament, and it is true in our lives today.

THE LAW’S TEACHING ABOUT GOD’S GRACE [CHESED]

It is only after establishing His identity and His relationship to them,  which is based upon His act of grace, His redemption of them from slavery, that He then gives to them His commandments.  The first one being,

You shall have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:3)

So what we learn here in the law is that once we are in a relationship with God, which is based on His redemption, an act of His grace, then we are expected to live in obedience to Him.  So what the law teaches us, contrary to what many mainstream ministers teach,  is that OBEDIENCE FOLLOWS REDEMPTION (i.e., “salvation”), which is always an act of grace, and the obedience does NOT cause or bring about the redemption or salvation.  Therefore, the law teaches the exact same thing as Paul in the New Testament.  Grace and law are NOT in conflict at all, but both of them do have a purpose and a role in our relationship with God.

But there’s more that God wants us to learn here about His grace, God’s chesed, but to see it, we must continue on.  The first thing God requires in our obedience to Him is that He is to come FIRST and FOREMOST in our lives, and nothing else.  If we put anything before Him, including our own needs, wants, our dreams and desires, our families and yes, even our own lives, then we are in violation of this commandment.  And secondly,

You shall not make unto you ANY graven image, or ANY likeness of ANY thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  (Exodus 20:4; Emphasis mine)

God clearly prohibits here the use of ANY type of pictorial representation of Him.  But it’s in the next two verses, which is actually a continuation of this commandment, that we find the next connection between God’s commandments and His chesed (or grace).  Although in the King James, the word chesed here is NOT translated as “grace” but as  “mercy”:

You shall not bow down yourself to them [idols or other gods], nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing MERCY [Heb. chesed] unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments.”  (Exodus 20:5-6; Emphasis mine)

So in this part of the commandment, we are also NOT to “bow down” and “serve” any other gods.  To “bow down” was the common position of worship, so God here is telling them (and us) that we are not to worship any other god or idol, only Him.  And we are also NOT to “serve” any other god.

What does it mean to “serve” any other god?  The word “serve” is the English translation of the Hebrew word ‘avad (Strong’s #5647), which means “to serve, work, or toil, or to work as a slave.”  I think a good modern example of this can be seen in traditional Buddhism.  The Buddha (“the Enlightened One”) is a title given to Siddhartha, the son of a king in India, who renounced his position, wealth, power, and even left his wife and child, to go and discover the cause of human suffering.  Siddhartha lived the same time as the prophet Isaiah, about 500 years before Christ.

In traditional Theraveda Buddhism, although the Buddha is not seen as “a god” (since there are no gods in Theraveda Buddhism), he and his teachings do come first and foremost in the minds of his followers; consequently, then making him an idol. And every year on his birthday, his statue is cleaned, a ritual called “bathing the Buddha.” And another form of this happens during the “Vesak Ritual,” in which devoted followers “pour scented, blessed water over an image of an infant prince [the Buddha].” In “bathing the [statues of the] Buddha,” these followers are “serving” him and, therefore, violating this commandment that we are not to serve any other god (or idol), but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

But you say, “I don’t have any statues in my home, nor do I serve any,” but do you spend all your time working?  Is your job an idol in your life?  Does your service to your employer come before your service or obedience to God?  What about sports?  Do you spend all your time watching one game after another?  Do you serve your enjoyment of the games by learning all you can about them and the players, rather than spending time with God by reading your Bible?  What about other possible idols: video games, parties, money and materialism, drugs and alcohol, or even your own family?  ANYTHING that comes first and foremost in our lives before God is an idol; it doesn’t have to be a statue.  But regardless of what it is, do you “serve” it?

And why are we NOT to “bow down” or “serve” them?  For three reasons,

  • Because God says, “for I the LORD your God am a jealous God.” 

This word “jealous” is the English translation of the Hebrew word qanna (Strong’s #7067), and it’s only used of God.  In doing some research, I found out in Chris Poblete’s online article “The Names of God: Qanna,” that he writes,

The fundamental meaning relates to a marriage relationship. God is depicted as Israel’s husband; He is a jealous God, wanting all our praise for Himself and no one else.

So just as any human spouse would expect complete loyalty and faithfulness, so God, as Israel’s husband, is expecting complete loyalty, devotion, and faithfulness from His people.  In the next part of the verse, God alludes to the fact that God faithfully keeps His covenant, and when that covenant is broken, God will faithfully punish those who violate it, which is what He means when He says,

  • visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me.

And finally, it’s in this third reason where the next chesed-connection is seen.

  • and showing MERCY [Heb. chesed] unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments.

Throughout the Scriptures, God consistently describes Himself, or is describes, as Him being a God who “keeps covenant” and “mercy” (Heb. chesed; or “grace”).  For example,

Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, which KEEPS COVENANT AND MERCY [Heb. chesed] with them that love Him and keep His commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:9; Emphasis mine)

What is it that we are to “KNOW” about YHVH, our God?  There are FIVE important things I’d like to point out from this verse:

  • “He is God.”  There’s no other God but Him.  Hes “the real thing,” all other gods are man-made and false.
  • He is “the faithful God.”  The word “faithful” is the Hebrew word ‘emunah (and it can mean “faith” or “faithful” or both at the same time).  So this could also be translated as “the faith God” or “the God of faith.”  So then how does God demonstrate His emunah, His “faith” and His “faithfulness”?
  • “which KEEPS COVENANT AND MERCY [Heb. chesed] with them.”  But who are the “them”?
  • “that love Him…”  Notice that our “love for Him,” is mentioned first.  So just as we discussed before, RELATIONSHIP COMES FIRST, and then secondly,
  • “and KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS.”  OBEDIENCE always follows RELATIONSHIP, NOT the other way around.

From this, we can see that “grace,” God’s chesed, is not only involved in us coming into a relationship with God, but it is also central to our on-going relationship with God, which includes our obedience to His commandments.   So to see grace [Heb. chesed] and our obedience to God as being diametrically opposed to one another is a clear misrepresentation of what is taught here within the Scriptures.  These two things are not opposites, nor are they opposed to each other, but it is this connection between God’s grace [Heb. chesed] and our obedience to His commandments that traditional mainstream Christianity has not correctly understood.

So now let’s look at some more examples of this connection being made:

And he [Solomon] said, ‘LORD God of Israel, there is no God like You, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who KEEPS COVENANT AND MERCY [Heb. chesed] with Your servants that walk before You with all their heart.  (I Kings 8:23; Emphasis mine; see also 2 Chronicles 6:14)

And I [Daniel] prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, KEEPING THE COVENANT AND MERCY [Heb. chesed] to them that love Him, and to them that keep His commandments.  (Daniel 9:4; Emphasis mine)

And [Nehemiah] said, ‘I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that KEEPS COVENANT AND MERCY [Heb. chesed] for them that love Him and observe His commandments.  (Nehemiah 1:5; Emphasis mine)

As we can see, Solomon, Daniel, Nehemiah, all understood that the God of Israel was a God who “KEEPS COVENANT AND MERCY [Heb. chesed; or grace]” and the people who He “keeps covenant and chesed [grace] with are described consistently the same way: as those “who love Him and keep His commandments.” So as Christians, we might ask the question, So why is “keeping His commandments” important?  It is NOT just about the obedience, there is something more here.

THE REAL INTENT AND PURPOSE OF THE COMMANDMENTS

God introduces Himself to His people – His Bride, Israel – His “new family,” and He wants her to know who He is and what He’s like, and what He’s NOT like.  This is the ultimate intent and purpose of the commandments, to describe God to us.  And by having us “keep His commandments,” He is trying to teach us, by using concrete examples, how we can become imitators of Him, which is what Paul teaches us in Ephesians 5:1, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (NASB).  In the King James, it states, “Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children.”  A “follower” is one who imitates the teacher, the one they are following, so in actuality, the same message is being taught here: to “be imitators of God.”

And like any loving father, God wants us, as His sons and daughters, to imitate Him, and the commandments He gave to Moses teaches us how to do that. But another essential concept that most traditional mainstream American Christians don’t understand is the concept of KINGDOM.   In Myles Monroe’s book Rediscovering the Kingdom: Ancient Hope for our 21st Century World (2004), he points out the importance of this word:

The concept of “KINGDOM” is critical, essential, necessary, required, and imperative in order to understand, appreciate, and comprehend the purpose, intent, goal, and objectives of God and mankind’s relationship to Him and the creation.  (25; Emphasis mine)

For one thing, what we need to understand is that a KINGDOM is NOT a democracy.  God does NOT rule and reign in a democracy.  What He has is a KINGDOM, and in describing the citizenry of a KINGDOM, Monroe describes them in the following:

The Citizenry is the people that live under the rule of the king.  Citizenship in a kingdom is NOT A RIGHT, but a PRIVILEGE, and is a result of the King’s choice.  The benefits and privileges of a KINGDOM are ONLY accessible to citizens and therefore, the favor of the KING [called “grace”] is always a privilege [“unmerited favor”].  (65)

Notice that we put the Scriptures back into a “KINGDOM CONTEXT,” everything that Paul taught about how we are “saved” [become citizens of God’s Kingdom] make sense.   For example, in a democracy, citizenship is a right, but in a kingdom, it is NOT a right, but a privilege.  In a democracy, we can earn the right to become a citizen, but in a KINGDOM, there isn’t anything that anyone can do to earn that right; it is entirely a result of the King’s choice.

IT IS THE KING WHO CHOOSES

Consequently, when the King chooses who He wants in His Kingdom, then by choosing them, that person is receiving the King’s favor, or in other words, His grace.  Throughout the Gospels, it is Jesus, the Anointed King, who chooses His followers, the people of His Kingdom:

You have NOT chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain:…” (John 15:16; Emphasis mine).

It is NOT us who found or choose God, but it is God who found and chooses us to be in His Kingdom.  This is the right and privilege of a King.  For example, God chose Abraham, He chose Isaac, and He even chose Jacob, as well as Joseph.  And in Deuteronomy 7, God tells the people and nation of Israel,

For you are a holy people unto the LORD your God: the LORD your God HAS CHOSEN YOU to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.  The LORD did not set His love upon you, nor CHOOSE YOU, because you are more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, has the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the Pharaoh king of Egypt.  (Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Emphasis mine)

God is telling them that He chose Israel and redeemed them because of the oath He had sworn to the fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  And even among the prophets and kings, it is God who chooses them.   And because God chose and redeemed them, He led them to Mt. Sinai to make them a part of His KINGDOM by giving them His KINGDOM LAWS.  Israel, itself, is NOT the whole KINGDOM, but it is part of the KINGDOM, just as the church is NOT the whole KINGDOM, but a part of the KINGDOM.   And just because people begin in the KINGDOM does NOT mean they’ll finish in the KINGDOM.  We see this in the Exodus, and we see this in the life and ministry of Jesus.

THE ROLE AND RELATIONSHIP OF THE LAW

Another concept we in American Christianity don’t understand is the role and relationship of the Law in God’s Kingdom.  In His book, Monroe describes it this way:

The Law constitutes the standards and principles established by the king, himself, by which his kingdom will function and be administered.  The laws of the kingdom are to be obeyed by all, including foreigners residing in it.  The laws of the kingdom are the way by which one is guaranteed access to the benefits of the king and the kingdom.  Violations of kingdom law place one at odds with the king and thus interrupts the favorable position one enjoys with the king.  (65-66)

Every word spoken by a king is law, so how much of the Bible is “the law of God”?  All of it, since all of it is the spoken word of the King.  Any violation of kingdom law is what the Bible calls “sin.”  In the United States, when someone “breaks the law,” we call it “a crime,” but in God’s kingdom, it’s called “a sin.”  But what I found really interesting about Monroe’s discussion of Kingdom law is the following:

The laws in a kingdom CANNOT BE CHANGED by the citizens, nor are they subject to a subject to a citizen referendum or debate.  Simply put, the word of the king is law in a kingdom.  Rebellion against the law is rebellion against the king.  (66; Emphasis mine)

WE CANNOT ADD OR DELETE FROM IT

Nowhere in the Bible does God ever give people the right to alter or change or even delete any of His commandments; in fact, twice in the Bible, He prohibits this.

You shall NOT add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish aught (subtract or delete) from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2; Emphasis mine)

What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall add thereto, nor diminish from it.  (Deuteronomy 12:32)

Consequently, then, whenever Christians say, or teach, that any or all parts of the Law, or the any other part of the Bible is not for today is, in fact, a violation of these two commandments.

ABRAHAMIC OR MOSAIC – WILL THE REAL RELATIONSHIP COVENANT PLEASE STAND UP?

And finally, a third point that traditional mainstream Christianity has NOT understood is that the Mosaic covenant, the covenant God made with Israel at Mt. Sinai, is NOT the relationship covenant between God and His people.  Instead, the RELATIONSHIP COVENANT of the Old Testament is the ABRAHAMIC COVENANT.  We see this repeatedly alluded to throughout the Scriptures.  For example,

And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  (Exodus 2:24)

And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty [Heb. El Shaddai], but by My name the LORD [Heb. YHVH] was I not known to them.  And I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, where they were strangers.  And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered My covenant.  (Exodus 6:3-5)

If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against Me, and that also they have walked contrary to Me;…Then will I remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.  (Leviticus 26:40, 42).

O ye seed of Abraham His servant, ye children of Jacob His chosen.  He is the LORD [Heb. YHVH] our God: His judgments are in all the earth.  He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations.  Which covenant He made with Abraham, and His oath unto Isaac; and confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant:…”

Over and over again, we can see that the covenant that God remembers is NOT the covenant He made with Moses and the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai, but the covenant that He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Why?  Because the covenant He made with Abraham, that was then passed down to Isaac, and then again with Jacob, is the RELATIONSHIP COVENANT of the Old Testament, NOT the Mosaic covenant.

The Mosaic covenant is, in actuality, an extended development and explanation of the Abrahamic Covenant.  In Genesis 17, God tells Abraham to “walk before Me, and be perfect” (Genesis 17:1), as well as to give him the covenant of circumcision (Genesis 17:10-14).   But what does it mean to “walk before Me,” and “be perfect”?  To “walk before Me” means “to have an ongoing relationship with God” and the word “perfect” is the English translation of the Hebrew word tamiyd (Strong’s #8549), which means, to walk or live in “integrity, truth:- without blemish, complete, sincerely, without spot, undefiled and uprightly.”  But what does that look like?  How are we suppose to understand what all is involved in that?  And God’s answer to these questions is the Mosaic Covenant, the commandments God gave to Moses and the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai.

So what’s my point??  Throughout the Scriptures, RELATIONSHIP ALWAYS COMES BEFORE OBEDIENCE, and GOD’S GRACE (Heb. chesed) IS ALWAYS THE BASIS OF THE RELATIONSHIP, and the BASIS ON WHICH THE RELATIONSHIP CONTINUES, WHICH WILL ALWAYS INVOLVE OBEDIENCE TO GOD AND TO HIS COVENANT.   This was true with Noah, Abraham, the children of Israel, Jesus’ disciples, and with us today.  To teach that we’re saved by grace through faith, which is true, but that NO OBEDIENCE IS REQUIRED FOR OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD is absolutely NOT TRUE, and is a clear misrepresentation of Scripture.

The final part of this series, which will come out in two days, will cover the last three things that the Old Testament teaches us about God’s grace.

 

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The 12 Things the Old Testament Teaches Us about God’s Grace (Part 2/4)

GRACE IS A MAJOR CONCEPT THROUGHOUT THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS.   As I discussed in the first part of this series, grace is NOT a New Testament revelation as mainstream Christians usually teach, but it is seen throughout the Old Testament as well. The reason that Christians do NOT see the same amount of discussion of “grace” in the Old Testament is because of how the Old Testament equivalent of “grace” has been translated into English.

THREE HEBREW OPTIONS

Although there are three Hebrew words – chen, techinnah and chesed – that contain the meaning of “grace,” only one of them is used in the same way as the Greek word charis (“grace”) in the New Testament.  Over the years, most ministers and teachers have erroneously thought the Hebrew word chen was the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek charis since both are translated in English as “grace.”  The Hebrew word chen (Strong’s #2580) does appear 67 times throughout the Old Testament, but in most cases, it is not translated as “grace,” but as “favor.”  For example, we do find it translated as “grace” in Genesis 6:8, “Noah found GRACE in the eyes of the Lord,” and in Ruth 2:2 when Ruth tells her mother-in-law, Naomi, “Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find GRACE.”  But even when the word chen is translated as “grace,” it still carries with it the idea of “favor,” rather than being used in the context of the forgiveness of sin and reconciliation that we see used in the New Testament.  Another word translated as “grace” is the Hebrew word techinnah (Strong’s #8467), such as in Ezra 9:8,

But now for a brief moment GRACE has been shown from the LORD our God, to leave us an escaped remnant and to give us a peg in this Holy Place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage.

This noun is translated as “grace” in this verse, but in Joshua 11:20 as mercy,” and then again as “supplication” (i.e., a cry for mercy) in Psalm 6:9; 55:1; and 119:170.  So although the Ezra 9:8 reference comes close to the use of the meaning of charis (“grace”) in the New Testament, this is not the word’s dominant use.   However, the best choice for the equivalent of the Greek word charis (grace) is the Hebrew word chesed (Strong’s #2617).  Regularly, the Greek word charis (grace) is translated by Jewish scholars and in songs translated into Hebrew by the word chesed, as my wife and I experienced in the three months we spent in Jerusalem (Aug. 2 – Oct. 31, 2016).  And chesed is seen and used throughout the Old Testament just as the Greek word charis is seen and used in the New Testament, as I’ve also shown in part 1 of this study.  But now in this second part of the study, I want to continue discussing what I’ve learned about chesed [grace] in the Old Testament.

INDIVIDUALS MAY WISH GOD’S CHESED [GRACE] ON OTHERS.

In the Old Testament, we are taught that we may wish God’s chesed [grace] on others.  For example, in 2 Samuel 15:20, David offers “mercy [Heb. chesed; grace] and truth be with you” to Ittai the Gittite, a Gentile.  Consequently, Paul may be following David’s example by offering “Grace and peace” to his Gentile audience in his epistles.  We do see it used in reference to forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God as in the New Testament, such as the following passage in Hosea,

Who is God like unto You, that pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?  He retains not His anger forever, because He delights in MERCY [Heb. chesed].  He will turn again, He will have compassion on us; He will subdue our iniquities; and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.  You will perform the truth to Jacob, and the MERCY [Heb. chesed] to Abraham, which you have sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.  (Micah 7:18-20; emphasis mine)

God not only forgives us of our great sins against Him, but He casts them “into the depths of the sea,” and all of this He does as a result of the promise He made to the fathers, “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  But in addition to this use of grace, the Old Testament provides us with a wider array of its use and understanding.

ISRAEL’S RELATIONSHIP TO GOD IS BASED ON HIS CHESED (“GRACE”).

Throughout the Old Testament, we read how Israel’s relationship was based on God’s chesed [or grace].  In many of the references, the word chesed is translated either as “lovingkindness” or “mercy.”  For example, in Hosea 2:19, God prophecies about His future restoration of the Northern Kingdom back to Himself:

And I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.  Then you will know the LORD.

And then after the Babylonian exile, after the Jews had returned and were rebuilding the city of Jerusalem and the Temple, we read in Ezra 3:11,

And they sang, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, saying, ‘For He is good, for His LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] is upon Israel forever.’  And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

So in what specific ways has God shown chesed [grace] to the people and nation of Israel?  Some of these will fit our Christian understanding of grace, but others will challenge Christians to look at other unexpected expressions of God’s grace.

GOD LED THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL OUT OF EGYPT BY HIS CHESED [GRACE].  In the Song of Moses [Exodus 15[, Moses is exalting God for His redemption of the people, and he says,

In Your LOVINGKINDNESS [chesed] You have led the people whom You have redeemed; in Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation. (Exodus 15:13; emphasis mine)

Has God changed?  No, He still leads His people by His chesed [grace], and it is in His strength that He guides us to His holy habitation.  Another place we see this is in Psalm 136.  This Psalm provides a beautiful overview and reminder of all the acts of chesed [grace] that God did in the Creation (Psalm 136:5-9) and in Israel’s Exodus from Egypt.  And throughout the Psalm, we read the same refrain: “For His LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] is everlasting.”  And what were His acts of chesed [grace]?

  • He “brought Israel out from their [Egypt’s] midst with a strong hand and an outstretched arm” (Psalm 136:11-12);
  • He “divided the Red Sea asunder, and made Israel pass through the midst of it” (Psalm 136:13-14); and
  • He led “His people through the wilderness” (Psalm 136:16).

It was only AFTER redeeming His people by His grace, His chesed, and bringing them through the waters of the Red Sea [a picture of baptism], that God gave to His people His commandments.   He did NOT give them His commandments and THEN redeemed them, which would be a legalistic approach to God, but He redeemed them FIRST, and only AFTER REDEEMING THEM, did God give His commandments to His people, consisting of both Jew and Non-Jew.  This hardly sounds like the “legalistic approach to God” that Christians often accuse the Old Testament of teaching.

GOD DESTROYED ISRAEL’S ENEMIES BY HIS CHESED [GRACE].

This is a point that I believe many American Christians will find challenging to their preconception of grace.  We have been taught to view grace only within the context of “forgiveness” and love, not in the context of God destroying our physical enemies, and yet this is exactly what the Old Testament teaches us about grace as well.  For example, in Psalm 136, and again as before, there is this repeating refrain after each statement, “For His LOVINGKINDNESS, His chesed [or “grace’] is everlasting.”

  • To Him who smote [or killed] the Egyptians in their firstborn (vs. 10);
  • To Him who smote [killed] great kings (vs. 17);
  • And slew [killed] mighty kings (vs. 18);
  • Sihon, king of the Amorites (vs. 19);
  • And Og, king of Bashan (vs. 20);
  • and gave their land as a heritage (vs. 21)
  • even a heritage to Israel His servant (vs. 22).

Does our Christian concept of grace include the idea of God taking human life for the benefit of His people?  Some say, “Well that was the Old Testament.  God is not like that since the death of Jesus on the cross.”  Really?  Did you know if you treat the Communion /the Lord’s Supper (a covenant meal) in an “unworthy manner,” we eat and drink God’s judgment upon ourselves:

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord…For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.  For this reason many among you are WEAK and SICK, and a NUMBER SLEEP [i.e., have died].  (I Corinthians 11:27, 29, 30; emphasis mine].

Am I saying that when a Christian becomes physically weak, or sick, or even dies, it is because they have irreverently ate of the Communion?  No, it’s not the only reason for these things to happen, but Paul is saying that it is A REASON.  So even in the New Testament, God does judge us for our sin, including killing those who does not reverently treat those things that are holy to Him.

Has God changed?  No, He hasn’t.  He is still the same God who punished the Egyptians with plagues, who drowned the Egyptian army in the Red Sea, who oversaw the destruction of the Canaanites so that Israel could inherit the land, and it is the same God who judges those who irreverently treat His holy things.  So when we think about this aspect of our God, do we see all of this as “God’s grace”?

GOD ESTABLISHED DAVID AS KING BY HIS CHESED [GRACE].

According to Psalm 89, God had NOT only made David king by His chesed [grace], but unlike Saul, God would NEVER remove His chesed [grace] from him or his family line.

I have found David My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him, with whom My hand will be established; My arm also will strengthen him…And my faithfulness and My LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed;  grace] will be with him, and in My name his horn [rule] will be exalted.  (Psalm 89:20, 21, 24; emphasis mine)

God then again reconfirms His covenant with David,

My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips.  Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David.  His descendants shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before Me.  It shall be established forever like the moon, and the witness in the sky is faithful.  Selah.

GOD ESTABLISHED SOLOMON AS KING BY HIS CHESED [GRACE].

After Solomon is made king, He prays to God and says,

You have shown great LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You; and You have reserved for him this great LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed], that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.  (I kings 3:6; emphasis mine)

GOD SHALL ESTABLISH THE MESSIAH ON DAVID’S THRONE BY HIS CHESED [GRACE].

Throughout the writings of the ancient Hebrew prophets, there are prophecies of the coming son [or descendant] of David who will come and one day rule and reign from his throne over Israel and the nations.  For example, in Isaiah 6-7, we read,

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, ON THE THRONE OF DAVID and over His Kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. [Emphasis mine]

Notice where will this future “son of David” rule and reign?  “On the throne of David,” but where is his throne?  It is in the city of Jerusalem in Israel.  Consequently, the throne in heaven belongs to the Father, but the throne in Jerusalem belongs to the Messiah, the son of David: the Messiah Yeshua /Jesus.  This means that Yeshua/ Jesus has not yet ascended His throne.

In Isaiah 16:5, we also read,

A throne will even be established in LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed; grace], and a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David; Moreover he will seek justice and be prompt in righteousness.  (Emphasis mine)

MESSIAH SHALL ALWAYS POSSESS GOD’S CHESED [GRACE].

Not only will the Messiah, the son of David, be made king by God’s chesed [grace], but He will always possess it.  In Psalm 89:28, we read,

My LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed; grace] I will keep for Him forever….But I will not break off My LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed; grace] from Him, nor deal falsely in My faithfulness.

GOD’S CHESED [GRACE] CANNOT BE PROCLAIMED FROM THE GRAVE.

Finally, the Old Testament teaches us that we cannot proclaim God’s grace from the grave:

Will You perform wonders for the dead?  Will the departed spirits rise and praise You?  Selah.  Will Your LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed; grace] be declared in the grave, Your faithfulness in Abaddon?  Will your wonders be known in the darkness?  And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? (Psalm 88:10-12; Emphasis mine)

And the obvious answer to this rhetorical question of whether God’s grace, His chesed, will be declared in the grave is “No, it will not be,” but Jesus did rise from the dead to continue to proclaim forevermore the grace of God in His reign and rule over our lives within His Kingdom.

When I began this study, I thought I could do it all in two parts; however, after completing part two, I realize that a third and final part is necessary.  I have already started it, and I will have it ready in a couple of days.  I hope you have found this study so far a blessing to you.

 

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Romans 14: “Does It Do Away with the Food Laws & Feasts?” (Part 2/2)

CAN FOOD AND SOCIAL STATUS AND PRESTIGE CAUSE A PROBLEM IN THE CHURCH?  Yes, it can.  As we discovered in part 1 of this series, food in ancient Roman culture was associated with social status and prestige.  The poor could not afford to buy fish and meat usually, and therefore ate fruits, breads, and vegetables; whereas, the rich, wealthy affluent Romans had the means to buy whatever food they wanted to eat.  The rich were looking down upon the poor when they came together for fellowship and meals.  Paul addresses this issue here in Romans 14, as well as in I Corinthians 8.

As we went through and examined Romans 13:14 – 14: 9, it became apparent that the text was dealing with issues surrounding Roman food and festival practices, as well as social status and privilege, and NOT with the biblical food laws nor the biblical feasts, such as the Sabbath.  There have been a number of Christians who have taken verses from Romans 14 out of context, and they have misapplied them to try to prove that God’s food laws and His biblical feasts, including the Sabbath, is no longer relevant to the Christian, nor is it to be observed.  But as we saw, this is a heinous misinterpretation and misapplication of the Scriptures.  So now in this final part of the study, we want to complete the chapter and see how Paul completes his argument regarding this issue.

WHY DO YOU JUDGE YOUR BROTHER?

In Romans 14:3-4, Paul asks the question, “Who are you to judge another man’s servant?” And in these two verses, he says that we should not judge one another when it comes to these two preferences of eating.  Again, as I mentioned last time, Paul is NOT dealing with the biblical food laws in Leviticus 11 or Deuteronomy 14: 3-21; instead, he is dealing with man-made Roman customs and culture concerning food, festivals, and social status and prestige that was associated with these things.

Again, as we saw by comparing Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8 with I Corinthians 5, we are NOT to judge another Christian when it comes to choices of personal opinion about things that the WHOLE BIBLE, i.e., from Genesis to Revelation, does NOT explicitly address, but we are to judge other Christians when it comes to them violating what God has said and made clear in the WHOLE BIBLE.  In other words, the WHOLE BIBLE is the Bible for Christians, NOT just the New Testament.  Christians and ministers who teach that any part of the Bible is not for today is not teaching the truth.

PAUL NOW ADDRESSES THE RICH BELIEVERS

Now beginning in the following passage to the end of the chapter, Paul’s focus is again on the rich, wealthy believers (“who eat all things”) for judging the poor believers (those “who eat only vegetables”).

But you, why do you judge your brother?  Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt?  For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.  For it is written, “As I live, says the LORD, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.”  So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10-12)

In this passage, Paul reiterates the questions of why are they judging and showing contempt for the poor on this non-biblical issue about food?  He points out that each of us will one day “stand before the judgment seat of God” to give an account of our lives before Him, and to back this statement up, Paul quotes from Isaiah 45:23.

The very fact that he quotes from the Old Testament (Heb. Tanakh) over and over again in his writings demonstrates that Paul is using the Old Testament to back up and support his teachings, AND that the Old Testament is the context in which he understands what is happening in his life and ministry (i.e., the New Testament).  He then continues by writing,

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this – NOT to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.  (Romans 14:10-13; Emphasis Mine)

It was the rich, wealthy ones who were buying the meat in the “meat markets” that had been offered earlier to idols before it reached the market that was causing “a stumbling block” to the poor believers.  Again, this reaffirms who Paul is addressing.  But we should understand that when it comes to personal opinions about NON-BIBLICAL ISSUES, we should NOT put “an obstacle or a stumbling block” in the way of other believers, who are likewise trying to serve Christ in their life.

COMMON OR UNCLEAN?

This next verse, though, seems to complicate the understanding that we are still dealing with a NON-BIBLICAL ISSUE (i.e., it’s not discussed in any of God’s commandments):

I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is UNCLEAN in itself; but to him who THINKS anything to be UNCLEAN, to him it is UNCLEAN.  For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love.  Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.  (Romans 14:14-15; Emphasis Mine)

First of all, the word “THINKS” is a present participle verb, and therefore refers to “repeated or continuous action.”  This means that the person thought it was “UNCLEAN” before they got saved, and they still think it is “UNCLEAN.”  The idea that the food was “UNCLEAN” did not happen because they got saved, and this only re-affirms that we are NOT dealing with the biblical food laws or the biblical feasts, which most non-Jews at the time would not have known that much about.

The thing that throws most readers off, of course, is the word “UNCLEAN” (Gk. koinos), but what’s interesting is that this Greek word is only translated as “UNCLEAN” here in Romans 14:14According to Strong’s #2389, the Greek word koinos means “common,” or literallysomething that’s shared by all or several.”  In fact, it is translated as “COMMON” nine (9) out of the fifteen (15) times it is used in the New Testament.  For example,

And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in COMMON [Gk. koinos]. (Acts 2:44; Emphasis Mine)

And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were COMMON [Gk. koinos] property to them. (Acts 4:32; Emphasis Mine)

To Titus, mine own son after the COMMON [Gk. koinos] faith:… (Titus 1:4; Emphasis Mine)

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the COMMON [Gk. koinos] salvation,… (Jude 3)

As we can see in all four of these verses, the word translated as “COMMON” is the same exact Greek word that’s translated as “UNCLEAN” in Romans 14:14.  Am I trying to suggest a conspiracy here among the translators to hide the truth?  No, I am trying to get us to deepen our understanding of Romans 14 beyond the surface English text.

AKATHARTOS – ANOTHER WORD FOR “UNCLEAN”?

In the majority of passages (28 of them) in the New Testament, the word “UNCLEAN” is NOT the English translation of the Greek word koinos, but the Greek word akathartos, which means “impure (ceremonial, moral [lewd], or special  [daemonic]) :- foul, unclean.”  Koinos is translated three (3) times as “UNCLEAN” but ONLY in Romans 14:14.

What I found interesting about the Greek word akarthartos is that it’s used only in reference to “unclean spirits” and “unclean people,” but NOT to food.  For example, in his epistles, Paul states that if two parents are unsaved, then their children are “unclean” (I Corinthians 7:14), and in another epistle, he lists the “unclean person” among others who will “not inherit the kingdom of God” (Ephesians 5:5).  And in 2 Corinthians 6:17, Paul quotes Isaiah 52:11, in saying that we are not to touch “the unclean thing” (i.e., we are not to touch anything unclean).  So if we are not to touch anything that’s “unclean,” according to Isaiah and Paul, then how can the biblical food laws have ended at the cross, as most Christians teach, since there are certain foods which are designated by God as being “unclean”?

KOINOS – A MAN-MADE LAW?

But unfortunately, in our English translations, there’s no way for someone to know which Greek word is being used unless they consult a Concordance.  So even though the Greek word akathartos is only used for “unclean spirits” and “unclean people,” the word kainos is dominantly used to refer to something that “commonly shared” or “commonly experienced.”  However, the word does appear once in all of the Gospels, and then it’s used in reference to man-made “ceremonial laws,” as opposed to the biblical food laws given by God:

Then came together unto him [Jesus] the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.  And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled [Gk. kainos], that is to say, with unwashed, hands, they found fault.  (Mark 7:1-2)

Nowhere in the Bible does God ever command people to wash their hands before eating.  This is a MAN-MADE RULE, created by the Pharisees, and they are attempting to use shame and fault-finding as a way of coercing Jesus and His followers to submit to their authority.  And anyone who knows the account knows that Jesus does not submit to them, but rebuffs them for substituting their own MAN-MADE RULES for Scripture.  And again, this account has nothing to do with the food laws that God handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai.

KAINOS VS. AKATHARTOS

So although the Greek word akathartos is used to refer to “unclean spirits” and “unclean people,” the Greek word koinos is used to refer to something that’s “COMMON,” “commonly shared” or to a “man-made rule” about something, such as food.  And in Acts 10, we find the Greek word kainos paired up with the word akathartos in Peter’s vision of the unclean animals in the sheet.  In this account, we read,

Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: and he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, and saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.  And there came a voice to him, “Rise, Peter, kill, and eat.” (Acts 10:9-13)

Many people read this part of the vision and automatically assume because Peter was hungry, and he’s shown all these animals and told to “kill and eat,” that the point of the vision is about food. However, as we will discover later, this is not the case.  When Peter is instructed to do this in his vision, how does Peter respond?

But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is COMMON [Gk. koinos] or unclean [Gk. akathartos]. And the voice spoke unto him again the second time, “What God has cleansed, that call not COMMON [Gk. kainos].” (Acts 10:14-15; Emphasis Mine)

Notice, that there are TWO categories in which something can be described: “COMMON” (Gk. koinos) ORUNCLEAN” (Gk. akatharthos). These are not the same category, but two different categories.  And also notice that God did NOT say, “What God has cleansed, that call not COMMON or UNCLEAN,” but he was only told NOT to call them “COMMON” (Gk. koinos).  For as we’ve seen, Paul continues to use the word “UNCLEAN” (Gk. akathartos) in reference to the children of the unsaved (I Corinthians 7:14) and to the “unclean person” who won’t make it into the kingdom of heaven, and he even quotes Isaiah to remind us that we are not to “touch the unclean thing” (2 Corinthians 6:17).

Consequently, to understand this vision to be about food is to have an extremely superficial view of the vision.  Peter is a Jew having a vision about animals.  This imagery should provoke a memory of another Jew who had a vision about animals, the prophet Daniel.  And in Daniel 7-8, the animals are used in his vision to represent Gentile (non-Jewish) people and kingdoms.  And the same is true here in Peter’s vision, and this is the way Peter, who saw the vision, understood the meaning and point of his own vision:

And he [Peter] said to them, “You know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God has showed me that I should not call ANY MAN COMMON [Gk. kainos] or UNCLEAN [Gk. akatharthos].” (Acts 10:28; Emphasis Mine]

Although God didn’t tell Peter NOT to call ANY MAN “UNCLEAN” in Acts 10 :15, I find it interesting that Peter understood the comment to include “UNCLEAN.”  But in either case, the animal imagery was about non-Jewish (i.e., “Gentile) people, NOT about food.  Consequently, I think it is extremely arrogant of mainstream Christianity to give a different meaning to Peter’s vision when it was he who had it, he who interpreted it, and it was he who acted on it, NOT them.

SO WHY DOES PAUL USE KOINOS IN ROMANS 14?

Now getting back to Romans 14, let’s review the verse again,

I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is UNCLEAN in itself; but to him who THINKS anything to be UNCLEAN, to him it is UNCLEAN.  For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love.  Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.  (Romans 14:14-15; Emphasis Mine)

What does Paul mean that “nothing is UNCLEAN [Gk. koinos] in itself”?  When it comes to MAN-MADE CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS, as we saw the term used in Mark 7:1-2, nothing is UNCLEAN in itself.  It is NOT inherently UNCLEAN by creation, but it is “CLEAN” or “UNCLEAN” because God is the King of His Kingdom and, therefore, He is the ONLY One who has the right to decide what His people should eat or not eat.  NOT People.  And as we’ve seen here in Romans 14, since the food is representative of people and their social prestige and status, we also know from Peter’s vision that no PERSON, once cleansed by God, should be called “UNCLEAN.”

So now that we understand the meaning of the Greek word koinos, why would Paul use this word here in Romans 14?  I believe the reason is two-fold:

  1.  He is addressing these man-made Roman laws and customs – NOT the biblical food laws handed down by God; and
  2.  He’s use of this word alludes to the fact that the food is something they are to hold in “COMMON,” something they “COMMONLY SHARE,” so it should be enjoyed, and NOT used as a weapon to judge the poor among them.

THE FOCUS OF THE KINGDOM

In the next verse, Paul contradicts their behavior with what should be seen as the appropriate focus of “citizens of the Kingdom:”

Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is NOT eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  For he who in this way SERVES Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.  (Romans 14:16-18; Emphasis Mine)

What service to Christ “is acceptable to God and approved by men”?  “Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  So as a result, how are we supposed to act?

So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.  Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. 

Should we “tear down the work of God” in a person’s life merely to hold on to our man-made customs and traditions?  No, absolutely not.  Again, Paul is not dealing with the biblical food laws handed down by God, but Roman customs and traditions.

All things indeed are CLEAN, but they are evil for the man who EATS and gives offense.  It is good NOT to EAT MEAT or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.  (Romans 14:19-21; Emphasis Mine)

The word translated as “CLEAN” here is the Greek word katharos, and it is the opposite of both koinos and akathartos.  According to Strong’s #2513, it means “Clean in the sense that something is lawful to be eaten or used.”  It does not, in fact, violate any biblical command.  Remember, we have to keep Paul’s comments in context.  Paul is addressing the rich, wealthy believers who are bringing their meats to the community meals, and then using them as a basis for judging the poor believers, who are only able to bring “vegetables.”   So in what sense are all these meats “CLEAN“?

According to Jesus, in the Gospel of Luke, “all things are CLEAN” when they have been given as alms (Luke 11:41).  What are “alms”?  They are gifts to the poor.  By them bringing their meats to the meal, it is a form of alms, in which case, “all things are indeed clean,” just as Jesus taught.  But again, Jesus nor Paul is dealing with biblically “unclean” food, but “unclean” according to Roman custom and tradition.

However, even if the food brought is given as a gift, it can still be used to cause offense, which Paul describes as “evil.”  Paul then clarifies that it is “NOT good to eat meat, drink wine, or do anything to cause our brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble.”  In all the years I’ve heard this chapter taught, I’ve never heard any minister or Christian teacher even suggest, using this verse, that Christians should NOT eat meat.  The point here is that we should not use our money and personal preferences to cause a Christian brother or sister to stumble, and he is applying this principle to their situation.  Obviously, then, Paul is not teaching us that we can “do our own thing,” and disregard the beliefs, values and feelings of the other believers that are also there within the congregation.

BE CONVINCED ABOUT WHAT YOU BELIEVE

In this final verse, Paul re-affirms that we need to be convinced about what we believe and what we do.  Logically, to be convinced that something is true implies the existence of evidence for that belief.  In fact, the word “faith” (Gk. pistis; Strong’s #4102) is a word rooted in Greco-Roman logic and argument, and it means “to persuade or to be persuaded.”  How do you “persuade” people about something?  Obviously, this requires evidence.  So what evidence do we have?  The teachings of the Whole Bible and our experiences with God in our lives.

For example, in 2 Timothy 3:16 it states,

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [lit. “God-breathed”], and is profitable for doctrine, FOR REPROOF, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. [Emphasis Mine]

The word “reproof” in English literally means “to prove again.” In the Greek, one of the meanings of the word elegchos (Strong’s #1650), translated here as “REPROOF” is “evidence.”  Have you been convinced by the evidence of God’s Word and what He’s done in your life that God is real, that He loves you, and that the same God we read about from Genesis to Revelation is the same God who is at work in your life?  And it’s this same God who says in His Word that He doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6), and because He doesn’t change, His Word and His standards, likewise, do not change.

Are you convinced by the whole Bible that your faith is real?  Are you convinced by the whole Bible that you are still on the right path and have not fallen away from Him?  Are you convinced by the whole Bible that your thoughts, words, and behavior are “pleasing in His eyes”?  Or are there things about your new life in Christ that you’re not convinced of yet from the whole Bible and, therefore, doubt those things?

Are you convinced from the whole Bible that God wants to rule and reign over every aspect of your life, including what you eat? Have you been convinced through the whole Bible of what God says about this?  Apparently, there were those in Rome who were not:

The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God.  Happy is he who does not CONDEMN himself in what he approves.  But he who DOUBTS is condemned if he EATS,  because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.  (Romans 14:22-23; Emphasis Mine)

The word “faith” in these verses does not mean “mental assent or agreement,” but it means to be convinced from the evidence of God’s Word.  When we are so convinced about something that we act on it, then our actions are based on our “CONVICTIONS.”  A “CONVICTION” is something you are convinced is true.  And if you are not convinced by the whole Bible that what you are doing is right, then Paul says that “whatever is not from faith” (i.e., being persuaded or conviction) is sin.  Are you convinced, even about your food?  Paul alludes to the fact that we can be convinced, we can act in “faith,” but to get there, we must spend time studying the whole Bible – NOT just certain parts.

CONCLUSION

Can Romans 14 be used to argue that Christians are not required to follow the biblical food laws handed down by God to Moses?  No, as we’ve seen in this two-part study, Romans 14 does NOT, in any way, deal with the biblical food laws, or with the biblical feasts, such as the Sabbath, but it deals with Roman customs, traditions, and feasts.  Consequently, to use Romans 14 in the manner that most Christians do, to disprove the Old Testament Scriptures, only demonstrates their lack of understanding regarding the historical, social-cultural context of the book of Romans, the issues within the Roman congregation, and its actual intended meaning for believers today.

What this chapter should teach us today is that we are not to judge other believers when it comes to our own personal opinions and preferences about things, or NON-BIBLICAL ISSUES.  If a Christian does do something that’s in clear violation of Scripture (Old and New Testament), then we do have the right to address that issue with the person privately first, and then if the person does not repent, we are to try again with two or three witnesses, and then only if they still will not repent, we are to inform the pastor or elders about it, and let the church approach the issue (see Matthew 18:15-17).

What we are NOT to do is tell others about it in your own little clique (gossip), slander the reputation of the person in the church, nor are you to put it on Twitter, FaceBook, or any other social media.  We are to build one another up, encourage one another, and support one another – NOT tear one another apart!  The church is NOT supposed to be a “piranha pool” where we devour one another and then “spit” the person out.  Unfortunately, this is what many churches have become.

And when it comes to social gatherings, do not try and use your food to build yourself up, to impress others, or to make someone else feel bad because they could not bring a meal just as nice.  Be nice to that person, encourage them, and love them, invite them to sit with you and your family.  Can you imagine what the church would be like if people actually followed the Bible, rather than their own personal views and opinions?

 

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