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Romans;- Patience with weak faith

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posted on Nov, 29 2019 @ 05:02 PM
A large part of Paul’s advice on living with one another in the gospel is taken up by the problem of weak faith.
For this discussion, “weak faith” means the fear that righteousness cannot be secured without keeping petty rules of conduct. “Strong faith” has confidence in righteousness through faith alone.

This was an issue when he was writing to the Galatians. Then the rules were those inspired by the written code of Moses, about avoiding contact with outsiders, and about special treatment of certain foods and special treatment of certain days. Not necessarily wrong in themselves, but it was a great mistake to think that salvation depended on them.

In this letter, the issue is a supposed obligation to avoid meat (ch14 vv1-2).
It isn’t at all clear where that sense of obligation could have come from. It doesn’t have any roots in the scriptures or mainstream Jewish tradition.
Noah was told “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you” (Genesis ch9 v3). The more specific food laws of Leviticus ch11 forbid the consumption of some living animals, being “unclean”, but not animals in general.
The whole point of the sacrificial system is that it is about giving God a share of the meat that is being eaten. And obviously the central feature of the Passover celebration is the sharing of the lamb.
It is true that Daniel refused to eat the meat sent from the king’s table, but this was because it would have been offered to other gods first (Daniel ch1).
I suppose one possibility is that Daniel’s practice took root among the Babylonian Jews, because of the difficulty of finding meat in Babylon without idolatrous connections.
The Essenes are thought to have had a vegetarian preference. But would there have been many Essenes in Rome? Or even in the Aegean region where Paul was doing most of his work?
It’s also possible that Paul’s teaching accidentally stimulated the rejection of meat, when he spoke in condemnation of “the flesh”, and some of his followers took the metaphor too literally.

Paul’s position is that the man weak in his faith has got it wrong, as the nickname implies, but not so wrong that he needs to be excluded from the fellowship.
Therefore he is to be accepted in the community, “but not for disputes over opinions”. He is not to be encouraged to persuade other people into his views, and in return they will not try to talk him into abandoning them.

Each side of the argument will be prone to look down on the other. The strong in faith may despise the weak in faith for their unnecessary scruples. The over-scrupulous man may pass judgement on the rest, as failing to do what God wants.
Both attitudes are wrong. They amount to “judging another man’s servant” (vv3-4).
We must all stand before God in judgement, and only God can call us to account (vv10-12).

Then Paul addresses himself to the strong in faith, and urges them not to lay down “stumbling-blocks” for their weaker brethren.
Of course, “the strong” are right in principle, because physical things are not “unclean” in themselves. It is the human use of them which is either clean or unclean. He might have quoted, if he knew them, the words of Jesus, that a man is not defiled by what goes into his mouth (Matthew ch15 v11).
Nevertheless, they should not use their freedom to eat in a way which injures their brethren. The danger is that the “weak in faith” may be tempted by their example into doing something which he believes is contrary to God’s will. Then he will be acting against God’s will, according to his own understanding, and therefore falling into sin. That is what Paul means by the statement that “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (vv13-23). He used the same argument in 1 Corinthians ch9, on the subject of “meat which has been offered to idols.”

The answer to both sides of the dispute is that “the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and joy and peace in the Holy Spirit; he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and [should be] approved by men” (vv17-18).

A couple of supplementary passages on different topics seem to have got attached to this chapter, linked together on a theme of “living to the Lord”.
Paul mentions the similar dispute between people who give esteem to specific days (which was one of the issues in Galatians). Both sides are acting “in honour of the Lord”, just as those who eat [meat] and those who don’t are intending to act in honour of the Lord (vv5-6).

This attracts another observation, to the effect that those who live and those who die are both living or dying “to the Lord”. None of us lives or dies “to himself”.
The explanation of that statement is that Christ died and lived again in order that he might be Lord of the dead and of the living.
These must be words of comfort on the subject of Christian brethren who have “fallen asleep”, as in 1 Thessalonians ch4, not directly related to the topic of the chapter (vv7-9).

In the next chapter, Paul turns his conclusion into a general rule. Those of us who are strong (in faith) should be patient with the brethren who are weak (in faith). That is , if we have enough confidence in faith to know that we don’t need to observe trivial rules, we should be more understanding towards those who are still too nervous to give them up (ch15 vv1-2).
In doing this, we will be following the example of Christ, who submitted his will and sacrificed his own interests.
He prays for the ideal of unity, that God might enable both sides to live together in harmony, and in accord with Christ Jesus (which is an essential prerequisite of that harmony), making it possible for them to combine in glorifying their common God and Father (vv5-6).

Paul tells the Romans that they should welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed both parties.
But he explains this by adding that Christ submitted himself to the circumcised in order to achieve the goals already mentioned in the previous chapters; to show God’s truthfulness, to confirm the promises made to their forefathers, and to enable the Gentiles to glorify God for the mercy they have received.
In other words, we have come back to the topic of the relationship of Jews and Gentiles.
Or perhaps we never left it, if the scruple about eating meat was mainly found among the Jewish Christians.
Certainly the scriptural quotations which close this topic are a return to the style of argument which Paul was using when discussing the “rejection” of the Jews.

Paul appears to be more indulgent towards weak faith in this letter than he was in the letter to the Galatians.
The difference seems to be that refusing meat is not one of the mainstream rules of the Jews, whereas the necessity of circumcision is based on one of the laws of Moses.
I would have thought, then, that “refusing meat” had a weaker claim to indulgence, because it was not a condition of the religion in which Jewish converts had been brought up.
Paul must have taken the view that this difference made the demand for circumcision a greater threat to the integrity of the Christian faith. So he recommends toleration for the vegetarian scruple, instead of meeting it with the kind of combative argument which we might have expected.

We ought to consider how much this difference of treatment might apply in other areas of Christian disagreement.

edit on 29-11-2019 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 29 2019 @ 05:03 PM
The avoidance of meat is an ascetic practice which was adopted by the church of the Middle Ages (as in the rules about fasting in Lent), without much scriptural justification.
The same can be said about the promotion of celibacy.

The God of the Bible is a God who promotes marriage, taking a special interest in the fertility of marriage. The very word “blessing”, in the Old Testament, is about fertility.
Sexual activity as such is not regarded as “unclean”. Condemnation comes only when people are acting outside the laws of marriage, as in fornication and adultery . This God is asking for chastity, not celibacy.
So the references to deliberate sexual restraint could almost be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Israel are commanded “not to go near a woman” at Sinai, for the day when God is going to give the commandments (Exodus ch19 v15).
When David wanted to take the shewbread from the altar, the priest asked for and received an assurance that the young men in David’s (imaginary) expeditionary force would have kept themselves free from recent contact with women (1 Samuel ch21).
These are both examples of temporary restraint, for the sake of getting closer to God than usual. Yet the restraint is not demanded of priests, even on the Day of Atonement.

What about the New Testament?
The 144,000 in Revelation have “not known women” (Revelation ch14 v4), but this refers to their spiritual faithfulness, in contrast with the Harlot.
Paul recommends non-marriage, but this is for pragmatic reasons. The unmarried are more free from worldly cares, and can give “an undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Corinthians ch7 vv32-35).

But what about the apparent value-judgement in the gospel, “It is not good to marry”? (Matthew ch19 v10).
We need to look at this one more closely, examining the context.
Jesus had just been reminding the Pharisees about God’s hostility to divorce.
In reaction to that teaching, it is the disciples who say “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient [OU SUMPHEREI] to marry”.
On the face of it, this is a declaration of astonishing selfishness and cynicism. “If we men cannot get rid of our wives when it suits our own convenience, it would be better to avoid marriage altogether and keep our freedom that way.”
It only escapes cynicism when Jesus gives the idea a positive slant, as a “saying” which can be received in certain cases. There are men who have “made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven”, and that is not a bad thing.
But even that is a pragmatic reason, not a spiritual one, much the same reason that Paul gives.
There is no suggestion even here that celibacy has a higher spiritual value than marriage.

The modern Catholic community has inherited from the church of the Middle Ages the value-judgement that there is something unspiritual about eating meat, and also that the state of marriage is somehow less spiritual than the state of celibacy.
Their predecessors did not get these value-judgements out of the Bible, so where do they come from?
I believe the root of the problem is a serious confusion between two different ways of understanding what it means to be “spiritual”.
The word “spiritual” may relate to spirit or it may relate to Spirit.
In the first case, it is simply the opposite of “having a physical, material substance.”
In the second case, it means relating to God, and the opposite of “spiritual” in that sense is obviously “unspiritual, not godly.”
The two senses overlap, because God is “spirit”.
However, people must have been merging the two senses of “spiritual”, to the point that the two versions of the opposite of “spiritual” were also being merged.
That is, the unconscious assumption was being made that the physical, material world was “unspiritual” in both senses, by definition.
So the spiritual ideal would be detachment from the physical world.
The physical detachment of celibacy would have greater spiritual value than the physical involvement of marriage.
The avoidance of meat would have greater spiritual value as another form of detachment.
That is hardly the viewpoint of a Bible in which God looked at the world which he created, before it was touched by sin, and declared that it was “very good”.
I am inclined to think that the ascetic practices in which the Catholic community take such pride are really the unpurged effects of the extra-Biblical mindset which eventually developed into Gnosticism.

posted on Nov, 29 2019 @ 06:08 PM
that meat....btw Galations is go to book, the meat offered to idols with the 3 things the weak were told to keep instead of circumcism just no blood no meat offered to idols and the third....what was that....

the bullet points in the thread xplain better than usual reading good job man...

posted on Nov, 29 2019 @ 06:17 PM
a reply to: GBP/JPY
You're thinking of Acts ch15. They were told to keep themselves from unchastity. I've already done a series on Galatians, but Paul's main discussion on the idol meat question is in 1 Corinthians ch8- it's Ok to eat meat previously part of a sacrifice to idols, as long as you weren't there at the sacrifice.

edit on 29-11-2019 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

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