Part 1: The Jerusalem Council, in Acts 15, had determined a list of four purity related prohibitions that would allow the new Gentile believers to participate in the local body of Messiah Yeshua. One of those prohibitions was the abstaining from meats that had been offered to idols. Part 2: Paul, attempting to solve the practical problem of dealing with meats of unknown origin, advised the believers in 1 Corinthians 8 that the eating of unknown meat was perfectly acceptable, unless it would cause another believer to stumble in his or her walk with Yeshua. Today's topic comes from Romans 14.
Romans 14:2-4 (KJV)
For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
Romans 14 is also dealing with the topic of meats. In verse 2 it appears that there are two kinds of believers. One believes that he may eat all things, while the other eats only herbs. Traditionally, Christianity has used this verse as an example of how the food laws have been put aside and are no longer applicable to Christians. However, just as was seen in the discussion on 1 Corinthians 8, the topic was not about meats in general, but on meats that had been offered to idols. The food laws of Leviticus 11 and 14 never command anyone to eat only herbs. The only reason that a believer would eat only herbs was to stay away from any potential meat that had been offered to idols. So, Paul was saying that one kind of believer was able to eat the meat of unknown origin without violating his or her conscience, while the other kind refrained from all meats and ate only herbs. In verse 3 Paul commanded that the two kinds of believers not judge each other. God was the only judge as seen in verse 4.
Romans 14:5 (KJV)
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
In verse 5, Paul seemed to exhort the believers to follow their own consciences regarding eating and the keeping of holy days. However, if Paul was truly advocating that each individual become a law unto himself, he would, again, be guilty of contradicting the Jerusalem Council's decision and the Torah, that states that some days were to be kept as holy days and that the eating of certain foods did matter.
Since the topic of this passage was about meats offered to idols, it is also likely that the days mentioned are not those discussed in the Torah, but are those days that the wider culture deemed special. An example might be the celebrating of one's birthday.
Romans 14:19 (KJV)
Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
Romans 14:21 (KJV)
It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
Finally, Paul concluded that the guideline in this area of eating was the edification of fellow believers and the prohibition of becoming a stumblingblock. In many cases, it was likely that the believers did, in fact, refrain from eating meats from unknown origins just so that no one would stumble in his or her faith.
What about our own practices? Do we adhere to Paul's guideline or do we flaunt those things that we think we can do or eat? Too often, we view our way as right, and then judge and ridicule those with differing ideas. While we must adhere to God's law, those non-essentials should not be used against our fellow believers.